Planning and Zoning for Rooftop Solar
Local jurisdictions can support the installation of rooftop solar by providing clear policies and regulations.
Solar in Comprehensive Plans
By incorporating solar energy into comprehensive plans, communities can provide a policy basis for renewable energy systems and begin to take full advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of local solar energy production. The Solar in Comprehensive Plans Discussion Paper highlights and gives examples of how local governments can add goals and guiding principles that support solar energy development.
Solar in Development Regulations
With support and clear language in development regulations, every community can utilize solar energy as a clean, local, and renewable resource while applying standards consistently and minimizing any conflicts. The Solar Energy in Development Regulations Discussion Paper dives into demonstrating how local governments can proactively facilitate residential solar energy systems.
Solar Ready Buildings and Model Ordinances
Solar ready buildings are designed so that rooftop solar systems can be added at a later date with relative ease. Solar ready standards include prescribed roof load capacity, location of wiring conduit, and proper roof orientation and exposure. See Solar Ready Construction Discussion Paper for more information on these issues.
Right and Solar Easements
Solar access is the ability of one property to continue to receive sunlight across property lines without obstruction. Solar rights codified in Washington law state that zoning ordinances cannot prohibit installation of a solar energy panel by the property’s owner or resident. Private housing developments may impose covenants, conditions, or other restrictions to limit the placement of solar systems. Solar easement is the specific, permanent right to have access to direct sunlight through a particular space. Without a formal easement, property owners do not have the ability to require removal of obstructions on adjacent properties. For some additional information on right and easements specifically, check out these resources:
- Solar Access History, City of Portland
- Solar ABCs Access Report (2008)
- APA Solar Briefing Paper: Integrating Solar Energy into Local Plans
- APA Solar Briefing Paper: Integrating Solar Energy Into local Development Regulations
- APA Model Language and Commentary
- SF Environment: Protecting Solar Access
Additional Planning and Zoning Resources
Webinar: Fire Code & Rooftop Solar
This webinar presented the proposed 2012 IFC solar PV language, and proposed alternatives to ensure safety and solar PV together. Delivered June, 2013.
Webinar | Planning, Siting, and Zoning with Rooftop Solar PV in Mind
This Evergreen State Solar Partnership webinar covered local and national best practices and examples for model ordinances, tree considerations, solar ready buildings, solar easements, and historic buildings. Delivered February 26, 2013.
Report | Planning and Zoning: Opportunities for Local Governments to Support Rooftop Solar
Published by the Evergreen State Solar Partnership, this report explores best practices that local governments can implement to develop comprehensive planning policies, solar access regulations and standards, and streamlined permitting processes. The full report includes resources, templates, and examples of solar-friendly policies and codes. Published March 2013.
Report | Planning and Zoning for Solar Energy
Planners have important roles to play in making sure plans and land use regulations encourage clean, safe energy sources. This essential information packet provides an extensive collection of sample ordinances on solar access, solar siting, and solar energy systems large and small. Published July 2011.