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Best Practice Guidance for Solar and Zoning

This guide highlights the key components for organized, transparent, and consistent accessory use solar energy regulations for zoning or land use codes. A local government’s approach to zoning and development can have a significant impact on solar energy growth. The inclusion of solar energy zoning best practices provides a foundation that can help facilitate the growth of solar energy, while balancing other development priorities in a community. While more cities and counties have included solar energy zoning best practices in their land use regulations, many local zoning approaches still inadvertently discourage solar energy.

Related Criteria

  • PZ-5: Codify in the zoning ordinance that accessory use solar PV is explicitly allowed by-right in all major zones. Zoning ordinance language should not include intentional or unintentional barriers to accessory use solar, such as limits to visibility from public rights-of-way, excessive restrictions to system size, glare studies, subjective design review, and neighbor consent requirements. (Required for Gold, PZ-4 is optional)
  • PZ-6: Ensure the zoning ordinance exempts rooftop solar PV from certain restrictions on accessory uses (e.g. height limits, rooftop equipment screening requirements, or other restrictions).
  • PZ-7: Ensure the zoning ordinance permits small ground-mounted solar PV as an accessory use in at least one zoning district.
  • PZ-8: Ensure the zoning ordinance exempts small ground-mounted solar PV from certain restrictions on accessory uses (e.g. setbacks, coverage or impervious surface calculations, or other restrictions).
  • PZ-16: Provide clear guidance for the installation of solar PV on historic properties and in special overlay districts.
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