Government Best Practices | MN Solar Challenge



What is the Minnesota Solar Challenge?

Minnesota Solar Challenge The Minnesota Solar Challenge provides support for communities across Minnesota that may be interested in capturing the benefit of their local solar energy resource.

Minnesota Solar Challenge partners will work with communities across Minnesota until February 2013 to implement local government best practices in permitting and zoning. The project aims to create a mature solar energy industry and create opportunities for homeowners and businesses to more effectively use their solar energy resource.

Non-hardware costs such as permitting, installation, design, and maintenance currently account for up to 40 percent of the total cost of installed rooftop solar photovoltaic systems in the United States. Lowering these costs is an important part of growing the solar energy industry so that it can create new jobs for American workers, improve U.S. energy security, and provide clean, renewable energy for American families and businesses.

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What are “best practices”?

Local governments have a number of opportunities for advancing solar energy resources and promoting the development of a solar energy industry.

Best practices for local governments include standardizing permitting processes for addressing solar technologies, updating land use policies and zoning codes, and increasing access to financing.

Incorporating such best practices into local government operations can enable property owners to capture their solar resource consistent with community land use, aesthetic, and safety standards.

What assistance is being offered?

The Solar Arts Building in Minneapolis The Minnesota Solar Challenge is offering free technical assistance to communities who want to investigate adopting local government best practices for enabling solar energy development. Best practices focus on:

  • Removing barriers in local permitting processes (building and electric)
  • Understanding and adopting reasonable permit fees charged to solar installations
  • Ensuring that land use regulation (including comprehensive plan language and zoning) treats solar energy installations fairly and consistently with other similar land uses

Technical assistance can include:

  • Workshops detailing the local government best practices and how to adapt the best practices
  • Working directly with decision makers and staff to explain the value of solar
  • Presenting and discussing local best practices directly with commissions, staff and elected officials
  • Helping individual cities, counties or townships investigate how the best practices fit into existing processes and regulations
  • Writing draft language or guidance documents for permitting and land use standards to fit the local conditions and circumstances

At least 20 communities will receive direct technical assistance implementing solar energy best practices.

How does my community sign up for technical assistance?

Fill out our brief questionnaire if you’re interested in direct technical assistance!

Need more information or have questions about best practices or technical assistance?
Contact Laura Cina at the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society:

Laura Cina
Managing Director
Minnesota Renewable Energy Society

Solar Energy Best Practices Workshops

Developing Your Community’s Renewable Energy Resource: Planning, Zoning & Permitting for Solar Energy

Learn the solar energy best practices in planning, zoning, and permitting, and hear about the free assistance available through the Minnesota Solar Challenge for implementing them.

Many communities agree that renewable energy is important for the future. But has your community really assessed its local renewable energy resources? Is solar energy addressed in your comprehensive plan, your development regulation, and your economic development priorities? What standards does your community use to balance between productive renewable energy resources and protecting community character? What is “distributed generation” and why should planners and building officials care?

Every community has a solar energy resource. Solar installation costs are rapidly coming down, and solar energy systems are coming soon to your community. But most local governments have little experience with renewable energy from a land use or economic development perspective. This workshop will review the rapidly evolving world of community-scale solar energy markets, technologies, and regulation, with a special emphasis on addressing renewable energy resources in plans, development regulation, and building code permitting.

Installing solar PV on a home Download an event flier >>

These workshops will address:

  • Market trends in solar energy and solar energy technologies
  • The hows and whys of addressing solar resources in local plans and policies
  • The different technologies for harvesting local renewable energy and how different technologies can create different considerations in development regulation and permitting requirements
  • Steps for local governments to encourage the development of a local solar energy market by removing barriers and limiting uncertainty
  • What potential conflicts might arise from solar energy installations, and distinguishing between real and perceived nuisances
  • Opportunities for local renewable energy incentives to meet your sustainability, economic development, or energy independence goals

Who should attend? Elected and appointed officials, planners and zoning administrators, building and inspections administrators, sustainability staff

Want to see what you missed at the workshops?

Recent webinar: On December 5th, 2013 Brian Ross with CR Planning led an hour-long webinar to help attendees learn about the solar energy best practices in planning, zoning, and permitting that we recommend for advancing solar in your community. Watch the webinar on YouTube or below to learn more, and click here to download Brian’s slides (9.5 mb ppt).

Past Events:

GreenStep Cities Workshop
Friday, November 9, 2012: 9:00-11:30am
League of Minnesota Cities, 145 University Avenue West

Rochester Workshop
Thursday, November 29, 2012: 12:30-4:00pm
Cascade Meadow Wetlands & Environmental Science Center, 2900 19th Street NW

Statewide Webinar (recorded)
Wednesday, December 5, 2012: 9:00-10:30am
Watch recording & download slides >>

Brainerd Workshop
Wednesday, December 12, 2012: 12:30-4:00pm
Northland Arboretum, 14250 Conservation Drive

Duluth Workshop
Tuesday, January 15, 2013: 12:30-4:00pm
Hartley Nature Center, 3001 Woodland Avenue
RSVP now >>

Saint Paul Workshop
Wednesday, February 6, 2013: 12:30-4:00pm
League of Minnesota Cities, 145 University Avenue West
RSVP now >>

Who’s behind the Minnesota Solar Challenge?

The local government team working on the Minnesota Solar Challenge is comprised of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, CR Planning, Clean Energy Resource Teams, Minnesota Department of Commerce, League of Minnesota Cities, and Metropolitan Council, among others.

Powered by SunShot The Minnesota Solar Challenge is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

To learn more, visit the Minnesota Solar Challenge website, the Rooftop Solar Challenge website, and the SunShot Initiative website.

Minnesotans building a clean energy future


    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission