Solar power is a reliable energy option that can help urban planners manage increasing energy demand. Solar technologies generate clean power, extend the life of a community’s conventional energy supplies, create jobs, and support economic development. Solar energy can also help a community reach its economic, environmental, and sustainability goals. By incorporating solar into a community master plan, planners can coordinate the community’s efforts and reach common goals more easily.
As of September 2010, 38 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands protect solar access or solar rights. Local governments also have the authority to adopt policies that support solar access and solar rights. Solar access can be protected through solar easements, which are legal agreements that protect access to sunlight on a property.
Local governments can create more proactive solar easement processes to help protect solar access, such as a solar access permit structure. In this model, a solar easement is automatically created when a property owner receives a permit to install a solar energy system. Local governments can also set forth a degree of solar access protection by specifying certain setbacks in zoning ordinances, so that buildings are constructed far enough apart that they would be unlikely to shade neighboring roofs. By logically incorporating solar energy considerations into zoning codes and ordinances, local governments can bring clarity to the responsibilities of various parties, achieve balance between stated government priorities, and avoid costly and time consuming legal action. (Source)
Visit the American Planning Association’s guide to Planning and Zoning for Solar Energy to find out how communities encourage the use of solar energy systems through their comprehensive plans, develop regulations to protect solar access, encourage appropriate solar orientation for new development, address solar energy systems in historic districts, require developers to build “solar-ready” homes and more!
Wisconsin Focus on Energy Discussion Regarding Solar Electric Systems Sited on Historic Buildings