A North Carolina Template Solar Ordinance Being Developed by NC Stakeholders


In July, 2008 the North Carolina Wind Working Group, a coalition of state government, non-profit and wind industry organizations, published a model wind ordinance for NC to provide guidance for communities planning for potential wind energy development.  Seven years later a similar group is working on a model (or template) ordinance for solar.  Solar systems are nothing new in the state, but the size and number of systems being installed recently is something quite new. Today in communities across North Carolina there are small and large solar energy systems being installed every month, or even every day. Some cities and counties across the state have solar specific ordinances defining how and where solar systems may be developed and permitted in the jurisdiction, but many other locations do not,  which can make it unclear how, and even if, a solar system may be installed in that jurisdiction. A template ordinance provides a consensus starting point for any city or county in the state looking to establish or update a solar ordinance. Having a model ordinance reduces the burden on the local staff to research and draft new ordinance language, and encourages a degree of consistency across the state.

The NC Solar Center and the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) partnered this spring to help develop this important template ordinance and have made good progress through the summer.  So far, regional forums have been held in Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville to inform people know about the process and collect input on what stakeholders would like to have included in the template. There are two additional forums planned, in Lumberton on Sept. 24, and in Charlotte on Oct. 18. Each of these events will be a way for interested parties to learn about solar development in North Carolina, and provide input on the current draft of the template.

A very broad range of stakeholders are active in two working groups (solar industry and everyone else) who have been drafting the ordinance this summer. Their members include solar developers/installers, city and county planners and zoning administrators, state agencies, environmental organizations, military, city/county organizations, forestry organizations, agriculture organizations, and others. Each working group has met twice, each time editing the latest version of the ordinance. This process has produced a current draft generally agreeable to both groups.

We are now moving to the next phase of drafting, which will occur in three focus groups each made up of members of the two working groups.  These smaller groups will dive deeper into the details of three core components of the ordinance; aesthetic related topics, abandonment/decommissioning, and permitting. Following the initial meetings of the focus groups, the two existing working groups will combine to form the N.C. Template Solar Ordinance Working Group. Using all the input collected, this group will finalize the drafting of the template ordinance this fall.

The final template ordinance will be completed in October and available at the NCSEA Making Energy Work conference November 5-6 at the Raleigh Convention Center.  This document will represent the consensus of a broad range of stakeholders with interest in solar development and its impacts in North Carolina, and thus be a very valuable starting point for local solar ordinances from Murphy to Manteo.

Contact Tommy Cleveland, Renewable Energy Project Coordinator at Tommy_Cleveland@ncsu.edu or 919-515-9432   or Miriam Makhyoun, Manager of Market Intelligence, NC Sustainable Energy Association at Miriam@energync.org or (919)-832-7601 x114 for more information.