Solar development offers both opportunities and challenges to local governments. Here is a curated list of resources for jurisdictions seeking to manage it for maximum community benefit.

Land use planning and sustainable practices

Land Use Considerations for Large Scale Solar

Large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) developments have the potential to disrupt native ecosystems and adversely impact water quality. This SolSmart publication outlines strategies local governments can take to address such issues as stormwater management, regulations, permitting and best management practices; vegetation management and maintenance; and co-located solar and agricultural considerations.

State Pollinator-Friendly Solar Initiatives

This publication from the Clean Energy States Alliance provides an overview of state policies around the US that encourage solar PV development in a manner that is beneficial to pollinators and the agricultural communities surrounding the development.

Solar permitting, codes, and other development considerations

Critical Updates to the Fair Permitting Act

The Colorado Legislature passed the Fair Permitting Act in 2011 to address problems of inconsistent and expensive renewable energy permitting costs across the state. This one-page fact sheet explains updates made to the Act in 2021 that set clear limits on charges and fees that local authorities may levy and allow battery storage to be included under a solar system permit.

SolSmart Toolkit for Local Governments

SolSmart is a nationwide program of the US Department of Energy that helps communities become more solar-development-friendly with resources, education and certification. This online toolkit includes resources and information related to a number of topics including stakeholder engagement; planning, zoning and development; solar PV construction, codes, permitting, and inspections; residential issues and existing regulatory framework; utility engagement; community solar; market development and finance; solar on public facilities and underutilized land; and fostering resilience through solar + storage.

Certification is also available for communities that have in place policies that make it easier and cheaper for solar development to occur within their jurisdictional boundaries. The SolSmart certification scorecard can be found here.

Solar procurement for local governments

American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator Procurement Guidance

This website provides detailed guidance for cities on the considerations and steps involved in procuring different types of renewable energy. It is designed to help city governments effectively and efficiently understand associated processes, tools and best practices in order to facilitate successful implementation of municipal renewable energy projects. The site also has an extensive list of tools and resources.

Fact Sheet for Community Solar PPA Model

Community solar gardens offer an opportunity for local governments to invest in solar PV without the need for direct purchase and installation of solar panels on rooftops or government owned land. This handout describes the community solar model as it is being implemented by Xcel Energy in Garfield County, and makes recommendations for local government investment in community solar gardens.

How Local Governments Can Buy Renewable Energy and Support Market Development

This webinar by SolSmart covers strategies local governments can consider to procure renewable energy and support renewable energy market development, including power purchase agreements, virtual power purchase agreements, community solar and more. It also covers how the regulatory landscape impacts the RE purchasing options available to a particular community.

Holy Cross Energy’s PuRE program and Xcel Energy’s Renewable Connect

The large electric utility companies in our three-county region offer programs that enable local governments to power their operations with renewable electricity without investing in solar PV panels. These programs charge a small premium on monthly energy bills to source the power used from local (within the state of Colorado) renewable energy sources. (Use Walking Mountains Sustainability’s renewable energy offset calculator to estimate your cost of purchasing renewable energy.)

Solar + Storage Options for Local Government Members

A round up of solar + storage procurement options for local government facilities within the Holy Cross Energy service territory.

About solar + storage

Resiliency: Solar + Storage

Part of SolSmart’s Toolkit for Local Governments, this web page explains how solar + storage systems work and how local communities can foster the development of this new technology. Storage systems for renewable energy are rapidly entering the market with enormous potential to expand the benefits of solar PV. Energy storage allows power to be deployed at all times of the day or night and improves grid resiliency by providing backup power for homeowners and businesses when storms or other emergencies cause a power failure. (Also worth watching: Solar + Storage, A Guide for Local Governments.)

Valuing the Resilience Provided by Solar and Battery Energy Storage Systems

Interest in installing solar PV systems with battery storage is increasing, but building owners and investors are often unsure how to assign value to the combined system. This National Renewable Energy Laboratory report explores the impact of resilience on the economics of PV and energy storage for large commercial buildings and illustrates that accounting for the cost of electric grid power outages can change the break-even point for solar + storage systems and make them financially sound investments.

Planning Tools

NREL Planning Data and Tools for State, Local and Tribal Governments

In this resource NREL provides several data sets and tools to support state, local, and tribal governments with making informed decisions about energy policy and projects.

NREL SLOPE Tool: State and Local Planning for Energy

Developed by NREL, SLOPE provides data on technical potential and Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) projections for various renewable energy technologies at a state and county level to enable data driven energy planning.

Solar Project Development Pathway & Resources

Part of the EPA’s EPA Local Government Solar Project Portal, this web page provides a project development pathway and resources to aid in developing solar on municipal buildings by following prescribed steps.

Local Government Owned Land-Based Solar Sites

The spreadsheet lists all of the sites owned by local governments in the three-county region that are suitable for solar development. These sites meet a minimum criteria for land-based solar including a grade of less than 15%, good solar exposure, and at least 5 acres. These sites are not shown on the NLR solar map and instead are being provided here as a resource for local governments interested in developing land-based community solar.

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