January 18, 2018

NYS Model Solar Energy Law

The New York State Model Solar Energy Law and Toolkit are Out


This Model Solar Energy Law (Model Law) is designed to assist communities in New York State adopt zoning provisions that promote solar energy systems while protecting community character and the environment. The Model Law is intended as a straightforward approach and leaves more complicated, site-specific issues to be handled through existing land use processes, such as the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SPPPs). It was developed by the NYSolar Smart Planning and Zoning Working Group (WG), as part of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge, through a collaborative, negotiated process with several local government participants and with technical support from Sustainable CUNY of the City University of New York and Pace Law School’s Land Use Law Center. The WG aimed to balance best practices that promote solar energy systems with common local requirements and concerns. As such, the Model Law is presented as a practical, streamlined approach for facilitating solar energy systems in New York State, rather than a compilation of the most pro-solar zoning language available. Many options for further promotion of solar energy systems are discussed in the directions and appendix of additional considerations.

The NYSolar Smart Program is a strategic effort led by Sustainable CUNY to implement solutions that lower the soft costs of installing solar across New York State and supports both Federal and State solar initiatives. Sustainable CUNY works in partnership with the New York Power Authority (NYPA); New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); municipalities around the state; and more than 30 organizations representing utility companies, installers, government agencies, and industry leaders.

This toolkit contains three parts:

  • The Model Solar Energy Law
  • Background information on zoning for solar as well as clear directions on how to use each section of the model law
  • Additional considerations when zoning for solar with citations to resources regarding each option discussed

For further information on the topics covered in the Model Law and subsequent sections, the Land Use Law Center through its work under the NYSERDA’s NY-Sun PV Trainers Network has prepared a useful Resource Guide providing background information and outlining technical details related to zoning for solar.

Note that the municipal attorney should be consulted regarding the Model Solar Energy Law. It is advisable to involve that person in the review and final drafting of your local Solar Energy Law as early in the process as possible.