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Solar Industry Releases New Framework to Help Community Solar Siting

Monday, Feb 28 2022

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Press Release

Washington D.C. — Today the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is releasing a new report to aid policymakers in siting community solar projects

Well-designed community solar projects can result in increased crop and clean energy production, the report shows. Community solar projects can also result in other benefits, such as protecting soils and providing habitat for many important species.  
 
“Policymakers should strongly encourage these project designs,” said David Gahl, SEIA’s senior director of state policy for the East. “By following these steps, community solar developers, landowners and communities can work together to ensure the benefits of clean, locally produced solar energy are shared by all stakeholders.”  
 
This new report starts with the concept that community solar systems should be designed so they result in ecosystem and agricultural benefits.  
 
Then, SEIA recommends policymakers deploy the existing well-established tools to avoid, minimize and/or mitigate any environmental impacts associated with community solar construction. For decades, builders seeking federal, and in some cases state approvals, have been required to assess the environmental impact of their proposed projects, and develop alternatives that address environmental concerns. 
 
To avoid the worst impacts of climate change and meet aggressive renewable energy goals, states need to build significantly more community solar projects. The framework described in this report should be used by policymakers as they tackle the challenges of siting more solar projects that will help them reach their clean energy goals. 
 
Several industry and conservation group leaders support the findings of this whitepaper, including:   

Echo Cartwright
New York Director of Climate Mitigation, The Nature Conservancy 

“The use of smart siting in renewable energy projects such as community solar is critical to achieving New York’s clean energy goals while also protecting and managing the health of our natural resources. The recommendations put forward in the SEIA’s Whitepaper will help communities gain access to solar energy in ways that will also preserve valuable open space. SEIA’s approach compliments and builds upon smart siting work, and The Nature Conservancy looks forward to continuing to work with SEIA and other partners to share these important policy recommendations.”

Ethan Winter
Northeast Solar Specialist, American Farmland Trust

“Community solar represents an important feature of America’s clean energy future, providing homeowners, renters, and businesses greater access to the benefits of solar energy generation. American Farmland Trust appreciates SEIA’s efforts to articulate a Community Solar Siting Framework. With potentially thousands of community solar facilities to be developed across the country, effective guidelines are needed for developers, landowners and local permitting jurisdictions to advance projects that are designed to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on our most productive farmland.  

“AFT looks forward to working with SEIA and leaders in community solar to develop best practices for project siting and soil health, and to support research, market incentives, and science-based performance standards for agricultural dual use and agrivoltaics at scale. By working with farmers and other stakeholders, community solar can support farm viability and advance agriculturally compatible innovation in project design and operations.”

Allison Considine
Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club

“Community Solar will play an increasingly important role as New York fully transitions off fossil fuels to a resilient, zero-emissions energy system. SEIA has proactively identified areas for greater support for smart siting of solar and demonstrated that there are significant co-benefits that can be achieved for agricultural soil restoration, ecosystem health, and community well-being while making critical strides to addressing the climate crisis."

Kaitlin Kelly O’Neill
Northeast Regional Director, Coalition for Community Solar Access

"Community solar is already providing significant benefits by expanding access to solar to thousands of customers, while also helping to increase the region’s supply of clean energy. Low-impact solar panels on small-scale community solar facilities can preserve farmland, make use of brownfield sites and deliver economic and environmental gains. These siting recommendations will help to maximize these benefits.”

Download the whitepaper on community solar project siting

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About SEIA®: 

The Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA) is leading the transformation to a clean energy economy, creating the framework for solar to achieve 30% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies and other strategic partners to fight for policies that create jobs in every community and shape fair market rules that promote competition and the growth of reliable, low-cost solar power. Founded in 1974, SEIA is the national trade association for the solar and solar + storage industries, building a comprehensive vision for the Solar+ Decade through research, education and advocacy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org and follow @SEIA on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

Media Contact: 

Jen Bristol, SEIA's Senior Director of Communications, [email protected] (202) 556-2886

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