Battery Energy Storage Systems

Zoning Practice — March 2024

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By Brian Ross, AICP, and Monika Vadali, PHD

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.

Banks of lithium-ion batteries and ventilation equipment inside an 8.5-foot-wide by 20-foot-tall steel enclosure.

A one megawatt hour lithium-ion BESS at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's National Wind Technology Center (Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 47215)

Battery Energy Storage Basics

Energy can be stored using mechanical, chemical, and thermal technologies. Batteries are chemical storage of energy. Several types of batteries are currently used, and new battery chemistries are coming to market. The most used chemistry is the lithium-ion battery. These batteries are used in a variety of devices, from cell phones to electric vehicles to large-scale BESS.

To complicate matters, not all lithium batteries use the same chemistry and present different risks and benefits; there are actually six distinct chemistries with different benefits and use cases, and different risk profiles. The type of lithium battery used depends on the device or use case where energy storage is needed. Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries are the preferred choice for grid-scale storage. LFP batteries are less energy dense than lithium nickel cobalt aluminum (NCA) and lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) batteries — which are preferred in electric vehicles where weight matters — but more stable and have greater thermal stability (lower thermal runaway risk) than other lithium chemistries.

Emerging battery chemistries that are not lithium based also present different risk/benefit profiles, including promising characteristics for stationary uses. These include iron-air batteries, zinc-air batteries, flow batteries, and solid-state batteries. Several of these technologies promise to be a good choice for stationary storage and grid integration as they have a longer performance period, showing no degradation for up to 30 years (IEA 2023).

Solid-state batteries are typically used in medical devices like pacemakers and other wearable devices, but over the last decade there has been significant research in this field to expand applicability to automotive, transportation, and other industrial uses (Weppner 2003). These batteries use a solid electrolyte instead of a liquid/polymer gel and could potentially prove to be safer, less flammable, and provide better cycling performance and strength (Ping et al. 2019).

Zinc-air batteries are another emerging technology that could be useful for utility-scale energy storage. Although they have not yet been tested for grid energy storage, these batteries may be safer and more environmentally friendly than lithium-ion batteries since they use water as a component and zinc is less destructive to mine (Proctor 2021).

BESS Market Forces

While non-battery energy storage technologies (e.g., pumped hydroelectric energy storage) are already in widespread use, and other technologies (e.g., gravity-based mechanical storage) are in development, batteries are and will likely continue to be the primary new electric energy storage technology for the next several decades. There are three reasons for the dramatic increase in deployment of grid-connected BESS:

  1. The rapid increase in variable renewable energy development (especially solar and wind) creates a large market for energy storage technologies to control the flow of energy between power generators and end uses on the grid and mitigate energy spikes or power quality issues.
  2. Dramatic drops in the cost of batteries combined with improved performance have made batteries a much more useful tool for electric grid resilience and reliability, potentially replacing fossil-fuel-based peaking power plants.
  3. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act included significant new tax credits for energy storage, providing a substantial incentive that is rapidly pushing battery system investments across the nation.
The cumulative capacity of proposed standalone battery, hybrid battery, solar + battery, wind + battery, and solar + wind + battery projects increased from 32.5 GW in 2018 to 461 GW in 2022, with solar + battery projects accounting for a plurality of capacity in every year other than 2021.

Proposed generation capacity of projects that include battery storage in the interconnection queues between 2018 and 2022 (Berkeley Lab 2023)

BESS is a land use that can have value at any point on the electric grid. The grid runs across the rural-to-urban transect and is infrastructure that exists in almost every zoning district. The upshot is that communities will need to consider how stationary battery storage, particularly the larger BESS applications, fits into their land-use plans and should be addressed through zoning regulations.

Energy Storage as a Land Use

While stationary battery storage is a new land use for most communities, all communities already have and likely regulate other forms of energy storage. How communities treat existing energy storage land uses in ordinances can help inform the level of risk and degree of regulation needed to protect the community's health, safety, and general welfare.

Two rows of large cylindrical tanks surrounded by security fencing.

A propane and oil distribution business in an incorporated city (Credit: Brian Ross)

Established Energy Storage Uses

While rarely categorized as "energy storage," many communities already host various energy storage land uses, and many of these uses carry safety risks. Long-established energy storage uses include gas stations (underground tanks store thousands of gallons of highly volatile fuel), propane storage and delivery businesses, ammonia storage and delivery businesses, and even grain elevators, which contain a vast and potentially volatile energy source (Donley 2023).

A gasoline tanker truck filling underground storage tanks at a gas station.

Perhaps the most common energy storage use in communities across the country (Credit: Brian Ross)

"As is true with many technological advances or with new and potentially dangerous products, there is a tendency either to view the advance as a fearful monster, and outlaw it from the city, or to assume that the new project differs little from its predecessor... both of these are wrong" (ASPO 1951).

In addition, many industrial land uses include substantial energy storage facilities. Many of these land uses are storing more energy than typical BESS installations. Existing zoning standards addressing the risks associated with energy storage include isolation of the land use in particular districts, use of setbacks and buffers, requiring safety equipment and safety design standards consistent with established best practices for that energy risk, and training of first responders in how to manage the specifics of each type of energy storage. Some of these tools can also make sense for large-scale BESS, although adapted for safety best practices specific to batteries.

Large homes on narrow lots in front of a massive linear structure housing dozens of grain elevators.

Residences near a grain elevator complex in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Credit: Alexei & Verne Stakhanov, Flickr)

Unique Risks of Battery Storage

While examination of how non-electric energy storage facilities are regulated should inform regulation of battery energy storage, BESS do have some unique characteristics relative to other energy storage land uses and some unique considerations in addressing risks and emergency events. The primary safety risk associated with most battery chemistries, including the predominant lithium-based batteries, is thermal runaway or thermal stability. As indicated by this term, an incident (i.e., a hazardous electrical, thermal, or mechanical event) causes a cell or cells within the battery bank to overheat and can lead to an escalating thermal event that damages the BESS and can result in fire, or rarely, an explosion (Jeevarajan et al. 2022).

Some battery chemistries are more prone to thermal runaway than others, particularly chemistries with higher energy density (e.g., NMC and NCA). Planners should be aware that different types of lithium batteries carry different risks. In stationary applications, particularly BESS used in electric utility applications, LFP batteries are widely used and are less prone to thermal runaway.

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, there have been 22 BESS fires since 2012 in the U.S (but seven in 2023 alone) (2023). Some of the fires were minor, with the facilities being able to resume operation after the fire was suppressed (Twitchell, Powell, and Paiss 2023). But several higher profile fires or explosions that resulted in first responder injuries have raised awareness of risks and resulted in modified best practices in containing risks. Public perception was also shaped by high profile events, and lead to the perception that BESS presents risks (or risks greater than other energy storage land uses).

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) standard 855 sets safety code thresholds for batteries. Under this standard, operators of facilities with total energy storage exceeding 600 kWh must complete a hazard mitigation analysis, utilize fire suppression designs and equipment, conduct fire and explosion testing in accordance with UL 9540A, develop emergency planning, and conduct annual training of maintenance staff. These requirements are not applicable to residential BESS; the International Fire Code limits residential battery banks to 20 kWh for residential applications (§1207). Multiple banks (up to 80 kWh total) can be installed if each bank is physically separated and protected from fire, but this is still well below the 600 kWh threshold.

Zoning standards can reference NFPA 1: Fire Code, NFPA 70: National Electric Code, NFPA 855: Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, and the International Fire Code in order to ensure that battery installations are meeting safety best practices (rather than creating safety standards from whole cloth in an ordinance). States that set mandatory state-wide electric or fire codes will usually preclude a community from requiring additional safety standards or equipment.

American Clean Power (ACP) has developed the "First Responders Guide to Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage System Incidents" for first responders. Large-scale BESS site owners or managers (such as solar or wind farm operators or utilities installing at substations) should be required to train first responders in battery firefighting techniques and standards. Specific hazards noted by ACP include fire, explosion, arc flash, shock, and toxic chemicals.

An approximately four-foot tall by three-foot wide rectangular box mounted on the wall of a garage and connected to an inverter.

A Tesla Powerwall residential battery system (Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 48520)

Battery Energy Storage Use Cases

As the cost of batteries declines and the efficacy improves, batteries are being used in many new applications where costs were previously prohibitive. People are quite familiar with how this has changed consumer devices and function. Mobility devices using batteries, from electric bicycles and scooters to passenger vehicles and even buses, are also increasingly common in the market.

Stationary battery use cases are less well understood by the general public and are perceived as having land-use impacts that may require planning or zoning consideration. A review of the literature and existing standards applied by state and local jurisdictions shows that stationary battery applications fall into four general use cases, each of which has potential subcategories: residential, commercial, standalone utility asset, and integrated with wholesale energy generation.

Residential battery systems are generally coupled with rooftop or backyard solar arrays designed to supply household energy. These battery applications serve primarily a backup power or resilience function but are increasingly being deployed as an alternative to selling excess production to the utility as "net metering" buy back rates are reduced by state regulators or legislators. These systems all fall well below the 600 kWh NFPA 855 threshold for mandatory fire and thermal protections. Most residential backup systems would also fall below the 20 kWh International Fire Code (IFC) limitation for residential battery units.

Commercial battery systems are increasingly used in conjunction with on-site solar generation, particularly as a means to reduce the demand charge portion of commercial electric bills. Some applications are also designed to provide backup power or resilience benefits. Most systems will fall below the NPFA 855 threshold, but larger commercial or industrial applications will exceed the 600-kWh standard and need to meet structure containment, fire suppression, personnel training, and a variety of other standards.

Standalone utility asset battery systems are high-capacity systems deployed at substations or occasionally as a standalone land use, which serve to enhance performance and resilience of the local electric system. These systems will always be over the 600-kWh threshold and need to meet required safety and fire standards for large-scale energy storage.

Integrated with wholesale energy generation battery systems are high-capacity systems deployed within or as part of large-scale solar or wind facilities. These BESS serve the wholesale electric market at either the transmission or distribution system scale. These systems will always be over the 600-kWh threshold and need to meet required safety and fire standards for large-scale energy storage.

These use cases can be a distinguishing factor in how communities choose to regulate (or not) stationary batteries as a land use. Batteries incorporated into other land uses generally do not need separate consideration for setbacks or buffers. Smaller scale applications (residential and some commercial) similarly do not rise to the level of risk requiring special treatment through local zoning.

Two columns of battery modules stacked approximately seven-feet tall inside of a metal cabinet-style enclosure.

A commercial battery system outside of the Energy Systems Integration Facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL 74338)

Examples of Battery Storage Ordinances

In October 2023, the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) published a summary of energy storage provisions in local ordinances (Twitchell, Powell, and Paiss). The study identified, through a search of the Municode database, 59 jurisdictions with ordinances (zoning but also building, fire, tax, and sustainability ordinances) addressing battery energy storage systems. The extensive search across thousands of jurisdictions shows that very few jurisdictions have clear standards for battery energy storage land uses. Similar experiences with solar and wind energy land uses demonstrated that the lack of definition and standards results in widely varying treatment across jurisdictions, slowing deployment and raising the likelihood of inappropriate standards.

The Great Plains Institute (GPI) also conducted a national scan of jurisdictions for locally developed (i.e., sub-state) battery energy storage zoning standards. GPI queried energy storage or renewable energy developers regarding jurisdictions that have standards and identified others through news stories on energy storage installations or ordinance changes. Additional sources included the Solar@Scale guidebook, resources from the SolSmart national designation and technical assistance program, and unpublished work from the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute's Solar Zoning in the Great Lakes States project (all funded by the U.S. Department of Energy). GPI's scan was to identify regional examples of local approaches to regulation of battery energy storage, not to complete an inventory of standards. GPI's scan looked at the details of 14 adopted or draft ordinances and two model ordinances across nine states.

While energy storage regulations are rare overall, some consistent patterns and practices can be identified across existing ordinances. BESS ordinances typically included the following components:

  • Definitions: Provisions identifying the battery use cases that will be regulated and identifying the distinctions between use cases that fit with the jurisdiction's priorities.
  • Use permissions: Provisions identifying the districts where BESS are permitted or conditional, and the circumstances where BESS is accessory and where BESS are a primary use.
  • Dimensional standards: Provisions identifying setbacks, including different setbacks for different use cases; height standards; lot size standards; and density or intensity standards.
  • Performance and design standards: Provisions addressing noise, visual impact, treatment of power lines, fencing, lighting, and signage.
  • Safety and first responder standards: Provisions identifying the required emergency plans and hazard information to be submitted and maintained as part of the permit, identifying design requirements for fire or environmental considerations, information or training for local first responders, and codes or safety standards for equipment or management.
  • Decommissioning standards: Provisions identifying required decommissioning thresholds, decommissioning standards and outcomes, and financial sureties that are recommended or required.
Chain-link security fencing around four intermodal-container-sized BESS enclosures.

A standalone utility asset battery system at a substation in central Whatcom County, Washington (Credit: Robert Ashworth, Flickr)


BESS definitions show some consistency across jurisdictions, such as the many definitions that distinguish between types of batteries consistent with fire and safety standards. However, the definitions still varied considerably.

Some definitions intend to capture all BESS use cases, while others focus on only one application. For instance, Johnson County, Iowa, defines all BESS in two categories that reflect NPFA standards for safety and reporting (a threshold definition used by many jurisdictions that have BESS ordinances) (Ordinance No. 05-19-22-01). This definition is used by a number of jurisdictions and likely originated from the New York State Energy Research & Development Agency (NYSERDA) model ordinance developed in 2020. Johnson County defines Battery Energy Storage System, Tier 1 as "one or more devices, assembled together, capable of storing energy in order to supply electrical energy at a future time, not to include a stand-alone 12-volt car battery or an electric motor vehicle; and which have an aggregate energy capacity less than or equal to 600 kWh and, if in a room or enclosed area, consist of only a single energy storage system technology." Tier 2 uses the same definition but has a capacity greater than 600 kWH or uses more than one battery technology or chemistry.

Some jurisdictions focus on a specific application or use case. The most frequent such application is BESS as a component of a solar or wind installation. Several jurisdictions addressed only this use case in their ordinance.

Another variation in definitions and uses is the treatment of BESS as a principal/primary use or as an accessory use. Some jurisdictions addressed only one or the other, and some both, but in different ways. For instance, Ellsworth, Maine, distinguishes between accessory and stand alone (i.e., principal use) energy storage systems based on how the energy from the battery is to be used (§56-14). To be considered accessory, the system "shall be designed with appropriate storage capacity to serve the principal use only and not the electric power grid." In contrast, other jurisdictions included BESS installed at substations to be an accessory use to the utility or essential service land use, while Pueblo County, Colorado, defines BESS on solar farms as accessory but as a principal use at a substation (§17-168.050.C.3).

Use Permissions

Jurisdictions varied in the breadth of districts where BESS is permitted. Yorktown, New York, permits utility-scale BESS (Tier 2) in all zoning districts under a special use permit (§300-81.5.G). Will County, Illinois, permits BESS in one agricultural district, a special-purpose open space district, and three industrial districts (§155-7.30). Systems occupying 10-acres or less only require a discretionary use permit in the agricultural district, while larger systems require a discretionary use permit in all but the special-purpose open space district. These limits could restrict BESS from being used more broadly on the distribution system at local substations.

Dimensional Standards

Most ordinances required BESS to meet general structure setback standards for the district in which the system was located. Those that set BESS-specific setbacks used distances of 50–150 feet from property lines. For example, Johnson County, Kansas, requires a 150-foot setback from property lines for BESS within large-scale solar facilities (Resolution No. 038-22). Amelia County, Virginia, was the most restrictive in GPI's review, requiring 5,000 feet between battery energy storage facilities and public roads and property lines (§325-34.2.T(3)).

Performance and Design Standards

Most BESS ordinances for large-scale installations included several elements of site design, including mitigating visual impacts through vegetation or other screening, fencing standards, lighting standards, and treatment of power lines. Screening standards varied from simple requirements to screen from some adjacent land uses to requiring vegetation management plans that screened the entire facility or used solid fencing.

Safety and First Responder Standards

Nearly all jurisdictions included submittal requirements (with the permit application or site plan) for an emergency plan, operations plan, or fire safety plan. Some jurisdictions required separate approval of first responder officials for emergency plans. Utility-scale BESS are subject to many of these requirements through the National Electric Code or the National Fire Code, and to equipment testing and installation standards set in NFPA 885. Some ordinances listed all the requirements, others simply incorporated safety and first responder requirements by reference.

Decommissioning Standards

Most BESS ordinances include decommissioning standards and require financial sureties for the decommissioning process. Ordinances varied significantly in detail about decommissioning standards. Jurisdictions that addressed BESS as a component of solar or wind facilities included BESS decommissioning as a component of the larger project.

A row of battery enclosures, sitting on concrete pads, with externally mounted air conditioning condensers.

An integrated with wholesale energy battery system at the Beacon Solar Plant in eastern Kern County, California (Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 50688)

The Case for Consistent Standards

Connexus Energy is an independent electric cooperative serving the northern metro area of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan region and is the largest co-op by number of members served in the Midwest. Connexus Energy's mission is to power its members and communities toward a smarter energy future with a passionate focus on affordability, innovation, safety, and grid reliability. Connexus is a leader in integrating community-scale solar and battery storage into its generation portfolio and positioning the nonprofit utility and its member consumers to take advantage of new technological innovation and market transformations.

In coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement of the updated Empowering Rural America program, Connexus began considering stationary energy storage at strategic locations in its service territory to lower costs and improve reliability as load growth continued and climate-related weather vulnerabilities increased. Having already navigated multiple jurisdictions' (sometimes unpredictable) land-use permitting processes for building solar generating facilities, Connexus wanted to know how stationary battery storage facilities would be treated under the zoning code and permitting processes for each jurisdiction in the co-op's service territory.

Connexus worked with GPI, to assess how the landscape of jurisdictions would evaluate and permit standalone battery storage facilities (not part of a solar or wind energy project). Possible installations could be totally standalone or located at existing substations, so GPI and Connexus focused on the communities that hosted distribution substations, which included cities, counties, and townships with land-use ordinances.

GPI reviewed the published ordinances for these communities and then conducted a survey and a series of interviews with land-use planners and community development staff. The ordinance review revealed that only one jurisdiction referenced energy storage as a land use, and then only in the context of the solar ordinance (a solar + storage installation). In other jurisdictions, BESS would, therefore, either be treated as an accessory use, regulated under a general category such as "utility services," or not permitted. The survey and interview process focused on asking how the jurisdiction would likely treat BESS, should an application come forward.

The interviews documented that, while there were some consistencies across jurisdictions, the likely regulatory standards and permitting process varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Most respondents were unfamiliar with the purpose of, need for, and land-use impacts and risks associated with battery storage.

Responses as to how battery storage would be treated ranged from "it would not be allowed" to "it's a permitted accessory use at substations." The most common response was that large-scale battery systems would require a conditional use permit (CUP), and if located at an existing substation, would instead require a modification to the substation's CUP.

Respondents acknowledged that staff and decision makers would need to interpret their land-use standards in order to permit stationary battery storage. Several jurisdictions had an "essential services" or "public utility services" land-use category that included other electric system infrastructure, such as distribution lines, transformers, and related equipment. Such categories may or may not be deemed to include battery storage, depending on whether battery storage was considered a subset of the listed components. Such interpretive regulation creates uncertainty and can significantly affect permitting times, construction schedules and costs, and ultimate deployment.

The work demonstrates that as standalone battery storage projects become more common, there will be a need for establishment of zoning best practices and inter-jurisdictional consistency. Part of establishing best practices is helping local planners and decision makers understand the local need for energy storage, the role of storage as part of renewable projects, and the basics of the technology and its risks relative to more familiar land uses that include energy storage.

Connexus proactively addresses planned BESS installations with local government officials. Steps they take include education on safety for the local fire marshal provided by a third-party expert, presentations on the need for the installation for local reliability and cost savings, providing a tour of another battery facility to diminish uncertainty, conducting training for first responders, providing results of NFPA required safety tests, and helping local staff and decision-makers understand different battery chemistries.

Recommended Practices

Several organizations have created guidance documents on how to treat battery energy storage systems within zoning (and sometimes other) ordinances with an eye toward enabling the local grid benefits of battery storage. The PNNL study (described earlier) identified considerations and best practices for several land-use issues. The New York State Energy Research & Development Agency (NYSERDA) created a battery energy guide for local governments that included both zoning and building/electric/fire code permitting recommendations, covering both residential and commercial use cases and BESS. Many ordinances catalogued for this issue used the NYSERDA standards. American Clean Power has developed guidance for local and state governments that permit BESS or evaluate site-specific conditions, which includes a set of recommendations to inform local zoning choices.

BESS land-use applications and potential local benefits are also addressed in the Solar@Scale guidebook and in guidance from SolSmart.

Based on the review of best practices and considering implications of existing practices in jurisdictions who have included BESS in ordinance, here are some basic recommended practices and considerations for planning and zoning.

Exempt Small BESS from Zoning Standards

Small BESS (residential and commercial battery systems) located within existing buildings do not present land use issues, nor health and safety issues that are materially different from other electric devices or appliances. Safety and fire issues for these systems are addressed under the NEC and NFC. Consequently, zoning standards are generally not necessary for these energy storage systems.

Define BESS as a Distinct Use

Define BESS as a land use, separate from electric generation or production but consistent with other energy infrastructure, such as substations. BESS have potential community benefits when sited with other electric grid infrastructure.

Permit BESS as Accessory Uses

Permit BESS as an accessory use for sites with energy generation, particularly community- or utility-scale solar and wind facilities, subject to national safety standards (NFPA 855). Clarify that BESS are a permissible accessory use to substations within the substation footprint. Require a modification to an existing discretionary use permit or a new discretionary use permit for installations that would expand the substation area.

Allow BESS Across the Transect

Allow BESS as a conditional use in districts across the rural-to-urban transect. BESS can provide resilience and electric power quality benefits everywhere that the grid serves. How or where the electricity or power from the battery is used does not affect the land-use implications of the system, and generally should not affect how the BESS is regulated.

Require Compliance with NFPA 855

Require BESS applications to meet NFPA 855 standards, rather than adding additional local standards. Also, consider who will be responsible for preparing and training local first responders in BESS risks.

Require a Decommissioning Plan

Require BESS applications to provide a decommissioning plan. If the community requires financial surety for other kinds of uses, BESS should be subject to equivalent requirements. When BESS are accessory to a new energy generation or substation facility, decommissioning and financial surety for the system should be incorporated into standards for the principal use.

Two rows of intermodal-sized battery enclosures between rows of ground-mounted solar arrays.

An integrated with wholesale energy battery system at the AES Lawai Solar Project in Kauai County, Hawaii (Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL 57997)


Communities across the nation are seeing dramatic changes in our electric energy system, with new technologies and infrastructural investment occurring at an unprecedented speed and scale. One example is the rapid increase in use of battery energy storage systems (BESS), both in "behind-the-meter" installations in homes and businesses, and in utility-scale applications at substations on the grid and as part of new generations projects, primarily solar and wind energy deployments.

BESS are, however, new types of land uses not previously seen in most communities. While behind-the-meter installations do not have significant land-use implications, large-scale BESS is raising concerns due to the uncertainty associated with a new land use and because energy storage is necessarily associated with health and safety risks similar to those of other land uses with energy storage facilities such as gasoline stations, propane and ammonia businesses, and grain elevators.

BESS are a land use that can have value at any point on the electric grid. Communities need to assess how to host new technology including distributed generation, utility-scale generation, expanded grid infrastructure, and energy storage facilities. Planners need to have a passing familiarity with energy storage basics and technologies, the risks and nuisances associated with batteries in different use cases, the benefits to the community of BESS deployment, and how batteries are similar to and different from existing forms of energy storage in the community.

Note: 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


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About the Authors

Brian Ross, AICP
Brian Ross, AICP, LEED GA
Brian Ross, AICP, LEED GA, is a Vice President at the Great Plains Institute, leading GPI's renewable energy market transformation efforts in the Midwest and nationally. He joined the institute after 20 years as a consultant working with local, regional, and state governments on climate and energy planning, policy, and regulation.


Monika Vadali, PHD
Monika Vadali, PHD
Monika Vadali, PHD, is a Senior Program Manager at the Great Plains Institute. Her work currently involves developing state, local, and national collaborations for renewable energy projects with a focus on equitable partnerships and solutions. Monika has a master's of public affairs from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs with a minor in science, technology, and environmental policy and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health.

Zoning Practice (ISSN 1548-0135) is a monthly publication of the American Planning Association. Joel Albizo, FASAE, CAE, Chief Executive Officer; Petra Hurtado, PhD, Chief Foresight and Knowledge Officer; David Morley, AICP, Editor. Learn more at

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