RAPID/Solar/Site Considerations

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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Regulatory Information Overviews

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Developers who are selecting a site for utility-scale solar should consider many different factors. Important factors include the location of the land, the owner or managing agency of the land, what type of access is required, potential environmental impacts, water access and water rights issues, and the accessibility to transmission lines.

Project Location

Prior to substantial investments, a developer should research whether a proposed site or area is available for development. Statutory or regulatory limitations require that certain lands be excluded from consideration for development. These lands generally include U.S. National Parks, U.S. National Monuments, federally designated Wilderness Areas, U.S. Forest Service primitive areas, and projects impacting land under the control of the Department of Defense.

Land Ownership and Access

In order for a developer to construct a solar energy facility on a proposed site, the developer must have an interest in the surface rights of the land. If the proposed site is on federal or state land, the developer generally must apply to the surface management agency for access to the surface rights. There are a number of different ways for the developer to negotiate the surface rights, but depending on the agency, access to the land is typically granted through long-term leases, rights-of-way, or special use authorizations.

Although utility-scale solar facilities only require the developer to obtain surface rights to the land being used for development, consideration should also be given to subsurface mineral rights as well. Because solar projects have the potential to cover large areas of land, there may be other developers conducting exploration or development beneath the surface for oil, gas, or other subsurface minerals. To avoid potential interruption, solar developers should inquire about both the surface and subsurface land rights associated with the potential development site.

Local Law

Within each state, projects in certain areas may be subject to local laws, permitting, and/or zoning requirements. Developers will want to determine the scope of local authority in a particular project area from the outset.

Environmental Process

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their proposed action, and any reasonable alternatives, before deciding whether and in what form to take an action. Even if a project is not subject to NEPA review, the state may require a process similar to NEPA.

Transmission Access

The proximity to existing transmission and access to potential rights-of-way is key to a successful project.

Permitting Location State Siting Act State Preemptive Authority Siting/Permitting Entities Permit Processing Timeframe

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