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 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.
Solar can provide long-term financial relief to families struggling with high and unpredictable energy costs, living-wage jobs, and a source of clean, local energy sited in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by traditional power generation. See the Low-income Solar Policy Guide for guidance on single and multi-family home and community solar, along with workforce development.
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
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.
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
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.
Hutchinson is recognized as a bronze level SolSmart community. Hutchinson became a SolSmart city in 2016, as they assisted with the installation of a solar field that provides energy for the wastewater plant.
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.
In 2020, the City South St. Paul received Bronze designation in the SolSmart Program. 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 380 cities, counties, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016. To receive designation, cities and counties make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting processes, as well as planning and zoning procedures. During the summer of 2020, the City rewrote its solar ordinance to make the solar installation process easier and more straightforward. In addition, the City created a list of solar resources for residents and businesses that are interested in investing in solar energy systems. These resources include a solar permitting checklist, a list of organizations that offer solar financing options, and solar suitability mapping to help residents find the optimal location for solar on their property.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
City Ordinance 2015-03 sets zoning rules to encourage the use and development of renewable energy systems that enhance energy conservation efforts and supports the use of solar energy collection systems.