Recycling Land for Solar Energy Development

Solar Briefing Papers 6

By David Morley, AICP



Recycling land for solar energy projects is consistent with sustainable development principles. Whether the energy is used on site or sold to the grid, solar redevelopment reduces the demand for fossil fuels and, by extension, the production of greenhouse gas emissions. Construction and installation work creates demand for local green-collar jobs, and in neighborhoods with high percentages of vacant properties, solar installations can reduce blight and improve appearances. When a solar redevelopment project involves cleanup of a contaminated site, it has the dual benefit of decreasing public health risks and repairing damage to the natural environment. Furthermore, large-scale reuse projects provide an alternative to developing greenfield sites, and solar redevelopment at all scales is well positioned to take advantage of existing infrastructure and public services.

While it is true that ground- or building-mounted solar panels can be a good fit for vacant properties of all sizes in a wide range of contexts, serious barriers to recycling land for solar energy production do exist. These barriers may include incomplete or inaccurate information about available sites, inadequate solar access, outdated or confusing development regulations, extensive on-site contamination, and insufficient project financing. 


Page Count
Date Published
Dec. 1, 2012
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

David Morley, AICP
David Morley, AICP, is a Research Program and QA Manager at the American Planning Association in Chicago, where he manages and contributes to sponsored research projects; manages the development of the Research KnowledgeBase; develops, organizes, and participates in educational sessions and workshops; and writes for APA publications. Mr. Morley also edits Zoning Practice.