Depending on local circumstances, communities will follow many paths toward increasing solar energy use. While some put most of their focus on rooftop solar for residents or businesses, other communities are pursuing large-scale solar projects to expand their renewable energy footprints. These large solar farms can offer many benefits to the community, such as greenhouse gas reductions, job growth, and potentially new tax revenue.
We’ve developed the following chart to show how communities can meet the criteria for SolSmart designation with an emphasis on large-scale solar. Working with SolSmart’s no-cost technical assistance team, communities can take key steps toward encouraging large-scale solar in their area. A SolSmart designation of Gold, Silver, or Bronze is a signal that a community is “open for solar business.”
Local governments play a key role in the development of large-scale solar projects through their role in the planning and zoning, permitting, and inspection processes. In cases where communities have concerns about the scope and impact of the projects, local governments can engage with developers and the public to reach a satisfactory solution.
One community that’s taken leadership in this area is Stearns County, Minnesota, a SolSmart Silver designee. Stearns County worked with the Great Plains Institute, a SolSmart Advisor organization, to create a predictable and transparent process for large-scale solar, including protections for stormwater and pollinator habitats. This recent article in Planning Magazine includes a profile of Stearns County along with some additional guidelines for communities on large-scale solar development.
If you’re interested in learning more, our technical assistance team can help walk you through the process for achieving SolSmart designation while encouraging large-scale solar growth. Contact us today at [email protected] for more information.