U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

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July 30, 2012

How do other communities regulate large-scale solar installations? 

SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership

The SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership has been tasked with helping accelerate adoption of photovoltaic (PV) solar at the local level by providing timely and actionable information to local governments.


Relatively few local governments address large-scale solar installations (i.e., solar farms) in their development regulations. Because utility-scale solar projects are typically subject to state or federal review as part of the permitting process, local codes that list development standards for these uses are rare. However, a growing number of communities are acknowledging large-scale solar installations as a legitimate land use.

When development regulations do address large-scale solar installations, they are typically permitted as conditional uses in a limited number of industrial or agricultural zoning districts and may be subject to specific use standards to address aesthetics or minimize environmental impacts.

Examples from PAS EIP-30

  • Erie (Pennsylvania), City of. 2010. Ordinance No. 4-2010.
  • Granville (North Carolina), County of. 2010. Code of Ordinances. Chapter 32, Land Development Code; Article III, Use Standards; Division 4, Limited, Conditional, and Special Uses; Section 32-233, Ground-Mounted Solar Power Energy System "Solar Farm" (NAICS 221119). Tallahassee, Fla.: Municipal Code Corporation.
  • Huntersville (North Carolina), Town of. 2010. Zoning Ordinance. Article 9, Conditions for Certain Uses; Section 9.54(2), Solar Energy Facility – Major Solar Energy Facilities. Article 12, Definitions.
  • Iron (Utah), County of. 2010. County Code. Title 17, Zoning; Chapter 17.16, Establishment of Zoning Districts; Section 17.16.030, Table of Uses. Chapter 17.20, Use Definitions; Section 17.20.010, Definitions. Chapter 17.33, Solar Power Plants. Chapter 17.84, Section 17.84.010, Definitions.
  • Madera (California), County of, Resource Management Agency. 2010. "CZ #2009-008, Title 18 Revisions to Allow for Solar Farms." Staff report to Board of Supervisors.  Ordinance No. 525NN.
  • Port St. Lucie (Florida), City of. 2011. Code of Ordinances. Title XV, Land Usage; Chapter 158, Zoning Code; Article I, General Provisions; Section 158.006, Definitions. Article IV, General Use Districts; Section 158.060(C)(13), General Use Zoning District (GU) – Special Exception Uses. Article IX, Industrial Districts; Section 158.136(C)11, Industrial Zoning District (IN) – Special Exception Uses; Section 158.137(C)(4), Utility Zoning District (U) – Special Exception Uses. Article X, Supplementary Use Regulations; Section 158.230, Solar Energy.  Tallahassee, Fla.: Municipal Code Corporation.
  • Salisbury (Massachusetts), Town of. 2010. Code of Ordinances. Chapter 300, Zoning; Article XXIII, Solar Photovoltaic Installations Zoning Bylaw.
  • San Antonio (Texas), City of. 2011. Unified Development Code. Article III, Zoning; Division 7, Supplemental Use Regulations; Section 35-398(b), Renewable Energy Systems – Solar Farms. Tallahassee, Fla.: Municipal Code Corporation.
  • Santa Clara (California), County of. 2010. Ordinance No. NS–1200.331: An Ordinance Of The Board Of Supervisors Of The County Of Santa Clara Amending Appendix I Of The County Of Santa Clara Ordinance Code Related To Commercial Solar Energy Conversion Systems.
  • Stearns (Minnesota), County of. 2010. Land Use and Zoning Ordinance #209. Section 3, Definitions. Section 6, Performance Standards; Part 6.50, Solar Energy Systems. Drafted by CR Planning, Minneapolis, Minn. 
  • Straban (Pennsylvania), Township of. 2010. Ordinance 2010-02.

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