Solar, with Benefits! (Or, the Co-Benefits Approach to Solar Development)

July 6, 2020 in Communities, Electricity Author: Brian Ross

Solar energy is not only important to reaching a zero-carbon energy system—solar projects can, with appropriate siting and design, also deliver many benefits to local communities where projects are sited. Deploying the level of solar needed to decarbonize our economy will require addressing siting and regulatory processes which are increasingly a barrier to solar project development. The Great Plains Institute is fostering a new paradigm in the deployment of community- and utility-scale solar development; what we call the co-benefits approach to solar. We’re working with state, regional, and national partners to identify how energy development can both help solve the climate crisis and deliver local benefits to the host community. Continue reading »

Iowa Solar Toolkit

May 22, 2020 in Communities, Reports & Whitepapers Author: Brian Ross

Planning, Zoning, and Permitting

As part of Solar Ready Iowa, toolkits have been assembled to equip local governments in Iowa with information regarding solar development as it relates to planning, zoning, and permitting. The toolkits were created in 2016, then model ordinances are being updated in 2020 to reflect new best practices and lessons learned since 2016. Minnesota and Iowa are updated and Illinois and Wisconsin are in process, with ordinance for Indiana and Michigan under development. The purpose of these toolkits is to provide resources that will assist communities in addressing barriers to solar energy installations in a manner tailored to each community’s needs. The following is a summary of materials that can be found in each of the toolkits. Continue reading »

Minnesota Solar Toolkit

May 22, 2020 in Communities, Reports & Whitepapers Author: Brian Ross

As part of the Grow Solar Partnership, toolkits have been assembled to equip local governments in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois with information regarding solar development as it relates to planning, zoning, and permitting. The toolkits were created in 2016, then model ordinances are being updated in 2020 to reflect new best practices and lessons learned since 2016. Minnesota and Iowa are updated and Illinois and Wisconsin are in process, with ordinance for Indiana and Michigan under development. The purpose of these toolkits is to provide resources that will assist communities in addressing barriers to solar energy installations in a manner tailored to each community’s needs.
Continue reading »

Solar Energy & Natural Systems: Exploring Co-Benefit Opportunities

November 21, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Authors: Brian Ross, Katharine Chute

A pollinator test plot underneath the PV array at the Chisago Solar Site, part of the Aurora Solar Project in Minnesota. NREL scientist Jordan Macknick is researching the economical and ecological affect of pollinator plants planted underneath the PV array

Solar projects can be designed and sited to meet natural resource conservation goals. Capturing the natural resource co-benefit opportunities of solar development will involve creative partnerships, targeted spatial planning, and rethinking site and project design. Continue reading »

Solar Energy & Agriculture: Pursuing Win-Win Opportunities

July 9, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Author: Brian Ross

A view of solar panels along a road

The largest solar farm proposal in the Midwest recently received approval from Wisconsin state regulators. Most of the 3,500-acre Badger Hollow Solar Farm project, which is being developed by Illinois-based Invenergy, is located on active farmland and will include up to 1.2 million solar panels on 2,200 acres of the project area. Some in the community saw the project as a staggering land use change in their community and contrary to the county’s farmland preservation plan. Significant local opposition to the project decried the use of prime agricultural land for solar production.

This case is emblematic of the dilemmas faced by the solar industry, utilities, and those working at the local, state, and federal levels to decarbonize the power sector and increase the use of local renewable energy. The Great Plains Institute is working to address these issues in ways that support solar development and agricultural protection goals. Continue reading »

Reducing Transportation Emissions Through Better Zoning

June 19, 2019 in Reports & Whitepapers, Transportation & Fuels Authors: Brian Ross, Clairece Cooke

A man installing an electric vehicle charger

Local governments across the nation are leading on solutions to address climate change that will bring major benefits to their communities, from cleaner air to saving money on energy bills. Over 400 mayors in the US signed accords to meet the Paris climate goals, and hundreds of American cities have taken the next steps of establishing carbon emission benchmarks, setting carbon reduction or carbon neutrality goals, and creating climate action or energy plans on how to achieve their local goals. Continue reading »

System Design for a High-Renewables Future: Insights from the MN Solar Pathways Analysis

January 14, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Author: Brian Ross

Sun shining over a solar panelIf sunlight strikes a solar panel, but we don’t use the electricity generated, is it “wasted”? In some parts of the country, so much solar energy is produced at midday that there is no use for it. Demand for electricity has already been fully met by solar and other sources of generation; the value of additional electricity on the grid is actually negative. Continue reading »

Powering the Future in Rural Minnesota: Assessing Views of Solar Energy as a Local Resource

December 7, 2018 in Communities Authors: Brian Ross, Jenna Greene

a rural road

Like many parts of the US, communities in rural Minnesota are experiencing growing interest among residents and businesses in development of an untapped, local economic resource: solar energy. To help communities understand and plan for development of solar resources, the Great Plains Institute has engaged local leaders to identify key gaps in information, challenges, and opportunities associated with such development. Continue reading »

New Report Shows that Solar, Wind, and Storage Can Competitively Power a Majority of MN Electric Needs

November 15, 2018 in Electricity, News & Press, Reports & Whitepapers Author: Brian Ross

MN Solar Pathways Logo

GPI is proud to be a contributor to the newly released Solar Potential Analysis Report for the MN Solar Pathways initiative. The report shows that Minnesota can produce 10 percent of its electricity from solar by 2025 and 70 percent from solar and wind by 2050 at generation costs comparable to natural gas. Continue reading »