Integrating Solar Energy into Local Development Regulations

Solar Briefing Papers 4

By Ann Dillemuth, AICP, Darcie White, AICP



Many communities recognize the economic and environmental benefits of local renewable energy, generally, and solar energy, specifically. Homes and businesses with solar installations will have lower energy bills, and new solar energy systems mean new jobs for local installers. Also, by increasing their use of solar energy, communities can decrease air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and the secondary impacts that mining or drilling for fossil fuels have on the environment and surrounding communities.

One of the keys to local solar market growth is a supportive regulatory environment. Planners write, amend, and administer standards, policies, and incentives that have important influences on the nature and timing of future private development as well as what, where, and how local resources are used or protected. Applying this idea to the solar resource, planners can examine zoning codes, building codes, subdivision codes, and other regulations and ordinances to determine if — and how — they address solar energy, and whether barriers, either intentional or unintentional, exist. Where codes are silent on the subject, they can propose amendments to enable communities to take advantage of this clean, local energy source, and suggest incentives to encourage solar energy use.


Page Count
Date Published
July 1, 2013
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Ann Dillemuth, AICP
<p>Ann Dillemuth, AICP, joined the American Planning Association in 2007 as a Research Associate with the Planning Advisory Service (PAS). AS PAS Editor, she edits the PAS Reports series and&nbsp;the bimonthly publications PAS Memo and PAS QuickNotes, and she serves as the lead staff reviewer for the AICP Exam Application review process. In addition, she has assisted with a number of APA&#39;s sponsored research projects on topics such as hazard mitigation, complete streets, wind and solar energy, and food systems planning. She holds a BA in Biology from Williams College and a master&#39;s degree in city and regional planning from Cornell University.</p>

Darcie White, AICP
Darcie White, AICP, is a Director with Clarion Associates, based in Denver, Colorado. She is a planner and landscape architect with over 20 years of professional experience. She has been involved in planning and plan implementation efforts for local, regional, and non-profit agencies across the country. Ms. White specializes in comprehensive planning for small and mid-sized communities, and has extensive experience developing plans and policies to support sustainable and resilient communities.