Associate at the American Planning Association. Planning for Solar Energy


There is a growing desire among communities to become more sustainable. Energy conservation and renewable energy production (including solar energy) play a significant role in community sustainability goals. Public officials and engaged citizens have many opportunities throughout the planning process to help support and advance solar energy initiatives in their communities. LONG-RANGE COMMUNITY VISIONING AND GOAL SETTING Community visioning is often the first step in developing any type of community plan, for establishing new standards, policies, and incentives, for doing development work, and for making public investment decisions. Whether part of a planning process or on its own, visioning is an important first chance to identify new opportunities and priorities—including those related to solar energy. Planners often conduct visioning exercises that produce a community’s long-term goals and objectives. By expressing their views of renewable energy generation during these visioning exercises (including responding to surveys and participating in visioning meetings), citizens enable planners to gauge the level of awareness and importance of solar energy in the community. Planners use this information to develop policies and action items for the community. Once a community agrees upon its long-range goals and objectives, municipal officials should look to them when reviewing development proposals, making budget decisions, and performing other related tasks. Both citizens and public officials should use these visioning meetings to discuss how solar energy is connected to other community goals and values and how solar energy could help achieve other community goals. A PV System installed on a residence. (Photo credit

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