Play 'Solar Powering Sunnyside' to Sharpen Your Solar Skills

Are you looking to start a conversation about solar energy in your community?

Is your community interested in local solar power production, but finding it challenging to discuss how to balance solar development with other community priorities?

Solar Powering Sunnyside is a new participatory planning exercise that provides an engaging and interactive way to engage community members in thinking about land-use planning for solar energy use.

In the exercise, the fictional town of Sunnyside — population 5,000 — has just gone through a visioning exercise, updating its comprehensive plan to include the goal of embracing local solar power production to support economic development and community resilience.

Currently the town, which has a wide variety of land uses, does not have any solar installations. Community members are enthusiastic about solar energy and ready to see progress towards this newly adopted goal. As a result, community leaders are holding a forum to bring the town together in order to develop a solar power production goal and preferred solar development scenarios.

When they play the game, participants take on the roles of different community stakeholders in the town, set a solar power production goal, and place solar energy system game pieces on the game board to meet this goal. Along the way they'll discuss the opportunities for and challenges to solar development related to each of Sunnyside's land uses.

After they've reached their solar goal, participants will draw cards and roll a die to test their solar development scenario against potentially competing community priorities — including historic preservation and tree protection — Sunnyside's approach to zoning, and some basic financial considerations that can have an impact on progress toward the town's solar goal.

About the Author

Anna Read, AICP, is a senior program and research associate at APA.

Top image: Community members in Matthews, North Carolina, play Solar Powering Sunnyside. Photo by David Morley, AICP.

July 14, 2016

By Anna Read, AICP