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

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July 30, 2012

How do other communities encourage the use of solar energy systems through their comprehensive plans?


The local comprehensive plan presents a future vision of the physical, social, and economic characteristics of an entire city or county, and it specifies goals and policies intended to implement that vision. Because it is the most expansive official policy statement of a city council or county board, it is an ideal tool to support the deployment of solar energy systems on both public and private property.

There are two primary mechanisms by which comprehensive plans can support solar energy system deployment: (1) documenting the solar resource and (2) articulating policies to guide decision making.

First, comprehensive plans can provide information about the solar resource available in different parts of the community. This may be in the form a solar resource map showing which areas receive the most sunlight annually, or it may be a text description of site characteristics that maximize solar potential.

Second, comprehensive plans can articulate specific policies to guide decision making about solar energy system deployment on public and private land. These policies may address solar access protection, street and building orientation, or preferential locations for new solar energy systems.
Examples from PAS EIP-30

  • Fort Collins (Colorado), City of. 2011. City Plan. Environmental Health: Energy.
  • Jackson (Oregon), County of. 2007. Jackson County Comprehensive Plan. Section 11, Energy Conservation.
  • Greensburg (Kansas), City of. 2008. Greensburg Sustainable Comprehensive Plan. Housing; Future Land Use and Policy.
  • Owensboro Metropolitan Planning Commission. 2007. Comprehensive Plan for Owensboro, Whitesville, Daviess County, Kentucky. Section 710. Climate and Solar Access.
  • Pinal (Arizona), County of. 2009. We Create Our Future: Pinal County Comprehensive Plan. Chapter 7, Environmental Stewardship – Energy.
  • Pleasanton (California), City of. 2009. General Plan 2005–2025. Energy Element.
  • Shakopee (Minnesota), City of. 2009. Comprehensive Plan 2030. 12, Solar Access.
  • Victoria (Minnesota), City of. 2010. 2030 Comprehensive Plan Update. Part II.L.1, Plan Elements – Special Resources – Solar Access Protection. Prepared by TKDA, St. Paul, Minn.

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