The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), has released a new report that will assist policymakers in locating community solar projects. The new report begins with the idea that community solar systems should be designed to produce ecosystem and agricultural benefits. SEIA recommends that policymakers utilize the existing tools to reduce, minimize, and/or mitigate the environmental impacts of community solar construction. Builders seeking federal approval, or in some cases state approval, have always been required to evaluate the environmental impact of proposed projects and then develop alternative solutions.
“Policymakers should strongly encourage these project designs,” says David Gahl, SEIA’s senior director of state policy for the East. “By following these steps, community solar developers, landowners and communities can work together to ensure the benefits of clean, locally produced solar energy are shared by all stakeholders.”
The report shows that well-designed community solar projects can lead to increased crop yields and clean energy production. Other benefits of community solar projects include the protection of soils and the provision of habitat for important species.
States must build more community solar projects to avoid the worst effects of climate change and meet their ambitious renewable energy goals. Policymakers should use the framework in this report to help them address the challenges of locating more solar projects that will enable them to reach their clean energy goals.
“The use of smart siting in renewable energy projects such as community solar is critical to achieving New York’s clean energy goals while also protecting and managing the health of our natural resources,” observes Echo Cartwright, The Nature Conservancy’s New York director of climate mitigation. “The recommendations put forward in the SEIA’s Whitepaper will help communities gain access to solar energy in ways that will also preserve valuable open space. SEIA’s approach compliments and builds upon smart siting work, and The Nature Conservancy looks forward to continuing to work with SEIA and other partners to share these important policy recommendations.”
“Community solar represents an important feature of America’s clean energy future, providing homeowners, renters and businesses greater access to the benefits of solar energy generation,” comments Ethan Winter, American Farmland Trust’s Northeast solar specialist. “American Farmland Trust appreciates SEIA’s efforts to articulate a Community Solar Siting Framework. Developers, landowners, and local permitting jurisdictions need to have clear guidelines in order to promote projects that minimize, minimize, and mitigate the potential impacts on our most productive farmland. There are potentially thousands of community solar facilities being developed across the country.
You can read the full report here.