As solar energy booms across the country thanks to plummeting costs, more and more communities will have the opportunity to host large-scale solar farms. These projects can bring a host of benefits to a municipality or county, from construction jobs to new property tax revenues — not to mention providing a new source of clean, carbon-free energy to help meet local climate action goals. At the same time, large solar installations can raise a host of questions from members of the community that leaders need to address.
This month’s cover story for Planning Magazine, published by the American Planning Association, offers a step-by-step guide for communities to manage large-scale solar development. Written by Megan Day, senior energy planner at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (a SolSmart partner organization), the article shows how communities can integrate solar energy into their planning and zoning processes; lay out a path forward for solar PV projects; and respond to public concerns. SolSmart’s team of experts can provide no-cost technical assistance to help communities achieve these objectives and also earn public recognition through a SolSmart designation.
As a featured success story, the article highlights Stearns County, Minnesota (SolSmart Silver), who worked with SolSmart Advisor Great Plains Institute to create a predictable, transparent process for large-scale solar projects. This includes groundbreaking standards for enhancing stormwater protection and pollinator habitats, with benefits to the environment and local agriculture.