InSPIRE/low impact/habitat/ground cover/Large scale solar policies and incentives

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Low-Impact Development Strategies

Native Vegetation and Pollinator Habitat

Large-Scale Solar Policies and Incentives

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Pollinator-Friendly Ground Cover Policies

Policies and incentives for low impact development include several state statutes that encourage establishing pollinator-friendly or other habitat-supporting ground cover in coordination with local agricultural extension services or other partners. Maryland enacted a 2017 state statute to establish a pollinator-friendly vegetation management standard in coordination with recommendations from the University of Maryland Bee Lab. Minnesota also established standards for pollinator-friendly ground cover at solar sites in 2017 and South Carolina enacted voluntary solar best-management practices to establish native vegetation and pollinator habitat in the Solar Habitat Act.

Stearns County, Minnesota, a state leader in solar development, requires solar farm ground cover to meet the standards established by the state statute in their Land Use and Zoning Ordinance. Linn County, Iowa moved ahead without state enabling legislation and amended the local Development Code to require that solar farms be planted with native grasses and wildflowers in addition to prohibiting the application of insecticides.

Avoiding Prime Agricultural Soils

The state of Oregon enacted a highly detailed approach to protecting high-value farmland and arable land from excessive encroachment from photovoltaic power generation facilities, while still allowing for development. The state’s approach is based in part on the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Crop Productivity Index (CPI) that is frequently used to define agricultural soils in protection programs. Counties within Oregon are implementing the state land use requirements.

State Policies that Encourage Solar Development on Contaminated Lands

Several states have policies that encourage consideration or create preferences for developing contaminated lands with solar.

  1. Maryland has a community solar pilot program to create separate program capacity for small systems and systems built on brownfields, parking lots or industrial areas. This is a three-year community solar pilot program (started April 2017) which aims to increase the opportunity to invest in or contract for solar generating equipment for all Maryland ratepayers.
  2. Massachusetts has the SREC II (solar renewable energy certificates) program that includes specific incentives for renewable energy on landfills and brownfields. A specific market sector under SREC II is designated for eligible landfills and brownfields and assigns an SREC factor of 80%, which indicates the percentage of the production output from their PV system that is eligible to generate SREC IIs.
  3. New Jersey has the 2012 Solar Act which explicitly identifies solar-electric systems on brownfields, areas of historic fill and closed landfills as eligible to generate Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SERCs).
  4. Vermont Act no. 99 relating to self-generation and net metering offers specific considerations to facilitate solar installations on landfills.