Planning for Solar Energy: New Briefing Papers Help Communities Navigate the Issue

Public Management, January-February 2013 | Go to article overview

Planning for Solar Energy: New Briefing Papers Help Communities Navigate the Issue


As part of its role in the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, the American Planning Association has recently developed a series of briefing papers aimed at helping communities understand important issues in planning for solar energy. The briefing papers cover these topics:

* Community engagement in planning for solar energy.

* Solar mapping.

* integrating solar energy into local plans.

* Integrating solar energy into local development regulations.

* Balancing solar and other potential competing interests in communities.

* Recycling land for solar energy development.

Here's an overview of what you'll find in each of the papers.

Community engagement in planning for solar energy. Involving community members and stakeholders in developing new plans and policies can be an integral step in accurately reflecting the community's goals and priorities and gaining support for implementation. In addition, community outreach and education, especially around emerging issues, is an important role for planners and other local government staff.

This paper provides an overview of common public concerns and misconceptions about solar energy so that local communities can be better prepared to respond with correct and current information. it also highlights opportunities to raise local awareness about solar energy by helping to create and distribute such informational materials as brochures and website content and by suggesting opportunities for public education, including forums and workshops. Several communities showcased in this paper provide case studies for what may work for other places.

Solar mapping. Solar mapping is a technology communities can use to showcase solar installations, as well as provide information on potential sites for new solar development. Solar maps are built using such computer programs as geospatial information systems (GIS).

These maps can educate community members on solar energy near their homes, while also providing resources on local installers and financing options. Utility companies that want to track their own systems' production and efficiency may also find the maps useful.

This briefing paper elaborates on this popular new technology and how some communities are using it to promote solar energy systems.

Integrating solar energy into local plans. Local plans can help clarify a community's goals when it comes to solar energy, identify the local solar resource, outline relevant policies, and establish the foundation for incorporating solar energy standards into local development regulations.

This paper highlights ways to integrate solar energy considerations into the comprehensive plan while ensuring consistency with energy, climate action, sustainability, or other plans. …

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