Battery Energy Storage Systems

Zoning Practice — March 2024

By Brian Ross, AICP, Monika Vadali



This issue is available free to all from Solar@Scale, a partnership between the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the American Planning Association (APA) that aims to help cities, towns, counties, and special districts understand and realize the potential benefits of large-scale solar development. For additional information about Solar@Scale visit

The electric energy system in our country is undergoing dramatic changes, with new technologies and infrastructural investment occurring at a speed and scale unprecedented in our nation’s history. One manifestation of those changes is the introduction of new land uses into our communities, land uses whose risks, conflicts, and synergies with existing land uses are uncertain or unknown by the host communities.

One such example is the rapid increase in use of battery energy storage systems (BESS) and related technologies. Grid-connected BESS regularly take the form of one or more shipping containers with ventilation equipment on the outside and row upon row of batteries and control systems secured inside. These systems are being deployed as part of utility substations and transmission systems and as part of solar and wind electric generation projects. Depending on state enabling legislation, some BESS will be exempt from local zoning, such as when BESS is part of renewable energy or transmission projects that are exempt. However, BESS have potential applications across the rural-to-urban transect, and most communities will need to address BESS in some form.

This issue of Zoning Practice explores how stationary battery storage fits into local land-use plans and zoning regulations. It briefly summarizes the market forces and land-use issues associated with BESS development, analyzes existing regulations for these systems, and offers guidance for new regulations rooted in sound planning principles.


Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2024
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Brian Ross, AICP
Brian Ross, AICP, is a Vice President at the Great Plains Institute, leading GPI’s renewable energy market transformation efforts in the Midwest and nationally. Over 30 years, he has worked extensively with local, regional, and state governments on climate and energy planning, policy and regulation. Brian currently leads multiple efforts at both the state and national level on integrating renewable energy development with natural systems, community priorities, and agriculture business models, and a solar/drinking water protection project. Brian has written numerous model ordinances for local government and adapted models for local implementation, developed ecosystem and community co-benefit best practices for renewable energy projects, and works nationally with the SolSmart program, the PV-SMaRT project, and other wind, solar, and hydrogen, and electric vehicle initiatives.

Monika Vadali