Community Solar

Screen city properties for potential solar development and weigh the costs and benefits of using a municipal property to site your community solar project

City-owned properties such as large open fields, brownfields, wastewater treatment plants, landfills, parking lots, and large rooftops could be suitable for community solar development. Two options for identifying possible sites for solar are (1) hire a contractor to perform the site screening, or (2) have city staff perform the site screening. The benefits of having an experienced developer bring land to the project include lowering city staff time, attracting more developers, and the potential for decreased project complexity. However, a developer bringing land may increase the overall project cost.

On the other hand, hosting a project on your own land allows the city to have more control throughout the project and can provide revenue to the city. The city may be able to utilize compromised lands (e.g., brownfields and landfills) or leverage other city resources such as vacant land, wastewater treatment plants, parking lots, and large rooftops.

Barriers to using government land include permit management, incurring the costs of finding suitable land, and ensuring benefits flow to the local community. In some cities, there are regulations that prohibit solar from being developed on agricultural land. Therefore, it is a good idea to consider multiple uses of the land such as providing pollinator habitat, which could allow the land to maintain its agricultural classification (for example, read about Solarama Crush’s beer created from pollinator-friendly solar panels.

A number of tools and resources can help you understand the solar potential of a particular site:

Take a look at case studies of various site types:

After conducting this initial site screening, you should have a list of 1–10 potential sites for a community solar project.