Suffolk County’s planning has put solar energy at the forefront, acknowledging the many benefits of using solar and other renewable energy. While the county does not have planning and zoning powers, it has unified its townships to remove local barriers and support the local growth of solar, leading to thousands of residential solar permits every year. Additionally, the county hosts 17 MW of grid-tied solar on county parking lots and at the county airport, which were both financed and built privately. Suffolk County is a promising example of the many ways in which counties without planning and zoning powers can bring together communities to enact effective change and combat climate change.
- Created an online permitting checklist, increasing transparency for community members and solar installers
- Reviewed local zoning codes and identified restrictions that intentionally or unintentionally prohibit solar PV development
- Allowed solar by-right accessory use in all zones (so solar installations don’t require special permits or hearings)
- Cross-trained both inspection and permitting staff on solar PV
- Provided a streamlined permitting pathway for small PV systems
- Created a streamlined process to approve certain solar permit applications over the counter