Best Practice Action Detail

Best Practice Action 26.7

GreenStep City Best Practices: Resilient Economic and Community Development
Renewable Energy No. 26

Remove barriers to and encourage installation of renewable energy generation capacity.

Best Practice Action 7

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

  • See the Local Government Solar Toolkit and Workbook (Grow Solar: 2020) 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. 
  • See BP 26.1 for wind resource links.
  • See the national SolSmart program and a MN contact person.
  • 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.
1 star Ensure via ordinance that solar energy installations (PV, hot water, hot air) are allowed land uses for appropriate zoning districts. Note that some early solar energy adoptions are reported under action 26.1
2 star Create a solar permit guideline to facilitate residential or small commercial solar installations permits; waive permit fees for solar installations for two years, or set a low fixed permit fee consistent with Grow Solar Toolkit recommendations.
3 star Become a SolSmart-certified city; work with surrounding communities to use the same solar permit guidelines and fee structure.

Who's doing it

Duluth - 3 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2017
Implementation details:
Duluth has been a SolSmart Gold city since September, 2017. There is also a checklist to help guide residents through the solar permitting process on the city website, and permit requests can be submitted online for ease of access. Solar is allowed by-right and as an accessory use in all major zones.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File:
For more information contact:
Alex Jackson, Energy Coordinator (City staff) | ajackson@DuluthMN.gov | 218-730-4433
Partners:
La Crescent - 3 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2019
Implementation details:
The City of La Crescent has earned a Bronze designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar. This designation recognizes La Crescent for taking bold steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development. SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. More than 300 cities, counties, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File:
For more information contact:
Bill Waller (City staff) | BWaller@cityoflacrescent-mn.gov | 507-895-2595
Partners:
Shorewood - 3 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2019
Implementation details:
Shorewood is a SolSmart Bronze city, participating with the SolSmart program to ease the installation of solar on buildings throughout the city.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File:
For more information contact:
Julie Moore (City staff) | jmoore@ci.shorewood.mn.us | 952-960-7906
Partners:
Warren - 3 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2018
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/money saved:
Establishing a framework to permit and process solar projects in Warren and its surrounding communities.
Descriptive File: view file
For more information contact:
Shannon Mortenson (City staff) | shannonm@warrenminnesota.com | 218-745-5343
Partners: SolSmart; CERTs; Great Plains Institute
Winona - 3 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2019
Implementation details:
The City of Winona is a bronze level SolSmart certified city.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File: view file
For more information contact:
John Howard (City staff) | jhoward@ci.winona.mn.us | 507-457-8273
Partners: SolSmart
Mountain Iron - 2 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2019
Implementation details:
Created and put community's solar permitting checklist online. Solar permit fees were reviewed and demonstrated to be reasonable fees: see https://mtniron.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Permit-Application-Solar.pdf
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File:
For more information contact:
Craig Wainio (City staff) | cwainio@ci.mountain-iron.mn.us | 218-748-7570
Partners:
Coon Rapids - 1 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2014
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.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File: view file
For more information contact:
Colleen Sinclair (City staff) | csinclair@coonrapidsmn.gov | 763-767-6485
Partners:
Fergus Falls - 1 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed:
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.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File:
For more information contact:
Len Taylor (City staff) | len.taylor@ci.fergus-falls.mn.us | 218-332-5418
Partners:
New Hope - 1 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2019
Implementation details:
On April 22, 2019, the New Hope City Council approved a request for a text amendment to the City Code establishing solar energy system regulations. Ordinance 19-01 establishes regulations and a review process for roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar energy systems in City Code §4-3(n).
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
A SmartFlower solar energy system was installed at the office building at 9220 Bass Lake Road. In 2019, the City Council approved a request for a text amendment to the City Code establishing solar energy system regulations. The SmartFlower is an all-in-one, ground-mounted solar system with a tracker that follows the sun. Solar cells on the system are arranged on individual “petals” that open at the beginning of each day. After the sun goes down, the petals fold up and a self-cleaning process takes place.
Descriptive File: view file
For more information contact:
Jeff Alger (City staff) | jalger@ci.new-hope.mn.us | 763-531-5119
Partners:
Scandia - 1 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2018
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.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File: view file
For more information contact:
Neil Soltis (City staff) | n.soltis@ci.scandia.mn.us | 651-433-2274
Partners:
Shakopee - 1 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2019
Implementation details:
In all of the City's residential, business, and industrial districts solar equipment is defined as an accessory use that is allowed outright.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File:
For more information contact:
PeggySue Imihy (City Staff) | pimihy@shakopeemn.gov | 952-233-9325
Partners:
Two Harbors - 1 star
Date action report first entered:
Date of last report update:
Year action initially completed: 2020
Implementation details:
In February 2020, the City of Two Harbors adopted two resolutions:

RESOLUTION NO. 2-65-20 APPROVING THE UPDATED COGENERATION AND SMALL POWER PRODUCTION TARIFF FOR THE TWO HARBORS ELECTRICAL DEPARTMENT.

24. RESOLUTION NO. 2-66-20 ADOPTING THE TWO HARBORS ELECTRICAL DEPARTMENT’S POLICY REGARDING DISTRIBUTED ENERGY RESOURCES AND NET METERING AND RULES GOVERNING THE INTERCONNECTION OF COGENERATION AND SMALL POWER PRODUCTION FACILITIES.
Outcome measures/metrics/money saved:
Descriptive File: view file
For more information contact:
Jennifer Sterbenz (City Staff) | jsterbenz@twoharborsmn.gov | 218-834-8804
Partners: