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.
The Minnesota Toolkit was given the 2017 Innovation in Planning Award by the Minnesota American Planning Association.
The following is a summary of materials that can be found in each of the toolkits.
State Solar Policy Summary
Solar policy plays an important role in the development of solar energy. This document includes highlights from each state in both the regulatory arena as well as financial incentives that are available to support solar. Additionally, the State Solar Policy Summary includes statutes that enable local governments to regulate solar in planning, zoning, and permitting. This document can be used as reference guide specific to each state.
Three State Regional Analysis
The Three State Regional Analysis looks at the 3-state region of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois to identify similarities and differences in state law and typical practices in permitting, planning, and zoning for solar energy development. This document serves as the foundation for the toolkits that were developed for each state. Using this analysis, national best practices were modified so that they could be integrated into each state’s regulatory framework insofar as it relates to solar development.
Comprehensive Plan Guide
The Comprehensive Plan Guide is a tool communities can use when they update their land use plans. This document outlines considerations that communities should make and identifies elements that allow for clear priorities around solar energy objectives. Model language is included to help local governments see the types of goals and policies they could include in their plans.
All local governments with the authority to regulate zoning should include solar development in their zoning code to recognize the value of solar and alleviate any local concerns. These model ordinances offer language to address a variety of solar land uses, tailored to local conditions and priorities. The model ordinances are being updated in 2020 to reflect new markets and best practices.
Local Government Permitting Checklist
Providing a clear and predictable permitting process saves time and money for both contractors and municipalities. Using national best practices, a template has been created that can be adapted locally, with notes on where municipalities might choose to modify standards based on varying circumstances.