Adopting land use regulations that encourage solar and other clean energy systems is an essential strategy for promoting clean power and one that focuses on the essential role that local governments play in mitigating climate change. This article explores efforts at the state and local level to reform zoning and land use regulations to permit, encourage, require, and incentivize rapidly-evolving clean energy systems, particularly solar, that, in the aggregate, have the ability to significantly increase power generation and decrease carbon emissions. The article illustrates how zoning, as it approaches its 100th anniversary, is encrusted with provisions that prohibit or discourage clean and solar energy systems: barriers that are being removed by progressive communities, some more successfully than others. It describes these barriers, then provides a framework and best practice examples for revising zoning codes and other land use regulations, first to eliminate regulatory barriers to permitting clean energy systems, focusing on solar as an example, and then to require and incentivize clean energy system deployment. Included is a review of the common law of solar access easements that helps explain the importance of the legislative powers of local government to facilitate solar power generation. The article concludes with an endorsement of state and federal actions that increase the speed of local adoption of zoning reforms by providing critical support, consistent with new scholarly findings that demonstrate how top down governmental influences can facilitate bottom-up progress, charting a strategy applicable to many other local initiatives to accommodate a wide array of emerging clean energy systems.
John R. Nolon, Mitigating Climate Change by Zoning for Solar Energy Systems: Embracing Clean Energy Technology in Zoning’s Centennial Year, Zoning & Plan. L. Rep., forthcoming Dec. 2015, http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/997/.