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GreenStep City Best Practices Resilient Economic & Community Development

Renewable Energy
no. 26

Remove barriers to and encourage installation of renewable energy generation capacity.
  Best Practice Action 7      [ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ]       [all actions]

Become a solar-ready community, including an expedited permit process for residents and businesses to install solar energy systems.

  • See the Local Government Solar Toolkit and Workbook (Grow Solar: 2017) for rooftop solar planning, zoning and permitting resources pertinent to Minnesota. See also codes, standards, and guides and checklists for streamlining permit applications, reviews and inspections from the SunShot Initiative at the US Dept. of Energy's Solar Energy Resource Center. Criteria for a better permitting process include: posting permitting requirements online and allowing fast (1-3 days) online permit processing; cost-based permitting fees; allow state licensures for installers; narrow inspection appointment window for one inspection. A simple summary of planning, process and financing improvements a city can take was prepared by the National Association of Regional Councils.
  • See BP 27.2 for wind resource links.
  • CERTs and GPI have provided up to 100 hours of free technical assistance over six months to cities addressing local barriers to solar energy development, with the goal of designating these cities through the national SolSmart program.
  • Data from the Minnesota Solar Suitability Analysis (2014) allows a city to assess its solar resource - document it's "proven solar reserves" (akin to oil and gas reserves) - to help shape zoning policies and focus economic development opportunities. Also view existing solar installations and other features on this web site by clicking the layers button.
Create a solar permit guideline to facilitate residential or small commercial solar installations permits based on the Grow Solar Toolkit best practices.
Complete 1 Star guidance plus waive permit fees for solar installations for two years, or set a low fixed permit fee consistent with Grow Solar Toolkit recommendations.
Become a SolSmart-certified city; complete 1 Star guidance plus work with surrounding communities to use the same solar permit guidelines and fee structure.


Date action report first entered:   05/25/2018
Date of last report update:   05/25/2018
Year action initially completed:   2018
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   Yes

Implementation details:
1 - Star Created a solar permit checklist for small solar PV systems based on the recommendations of the Grow Solar Toolkit. 2 - Star Complete 1 Star guidance as well as fixing the permit fee to $100.00 or $150.00 if an additional inspection is necessary. 3 - Star In the process of becoming a SolSmart-certified city as well as receiving Bronze and Silver designations; once the City of Warren has received these and identified its pathway to Gold designation, these materials will be bundled into a template package for surrounding communities to use.

Outcome measures/metrics:
Establishing a framework to permit and process solar projects in Warren and its surrounding communities.

            view file

For more information contact:
Shannon Mortenson (City staff)   |   shannonm@warrenminnesota.com   |   218-745-5343

SolSmart; CERTs; Great Plains Institute

View All Warren Actions

Coon Rapids

Date action report first entered:   06/12/2017
Date of last report update:   06/12/2017
Year action initially completed:   2014
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   Yes

Implementation details:
In the City of Coon Rapids, in order to be approved for solar installation for either residential or commercial use, one must complete the one (1) page "Solar Photovoltaic Installation Permit application." The completed application, along with a written/hardcopy plan of the particular project is provided to the City's Inspections Dept. for review. The review process will take up to (at most) 5-7 days.

Descriptive links: http://www.coonrapidsmn.gov/documentcenter/view/3749             view file

For more information contact:
Colleen Sinclair (City staff)   |   csinclair@coonrapidsmn.gov   |   763-767-6485

View All Coon Rapids Actions


Date action report first entered:   01/18/2018
Date of last report update:   01/18/2018
Year action initially completed:   2018
Action completed after joining GreenStep?   Yes

Implementation details:
The City has enacted an ordinance to regulate solar energy systems that are accessory to the primary use of the property. The ordinance provides for a building permit review process for systems smaller than 800 s.f. in area. Systems that are larger in size will still be required to seek a conditional use permit.

Descriptive links: Solar Energy Systems as accessory use             view file

For more information contact:
Neil Soltis (City staff)   |   n.soltis@ci.scandia.mn.us   |   651-433-2274

View All Scandia Actions

Fergus Falls pending

Date action report first entered:   01/14/2016
Date of last report update:   01/14/2016

Implementation details:
The City Code allowing solar energy is already in place which would speed up the process for anyone looking to install such a system.

For more information contact:
Len Taylor (City staff)   |   len.taylor@ci.fergus-falls.mn.us   |   218-332-5418

View All Fergus Falls Actions

pending means a star rating has not yet been assigned to this city

greenstep advisor
Lissa Pawlisch, Statewide Coordinator, Clean Energy Resource Teams: 612/624-2293, pawl0048@umn.edu, http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org