DCNR Announces Guidance for Planners Seeking to Generate Clean Renewable Energy through Grid-Scale Solar Installations

As interest in harnessing power through solar energy increases, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn today announced the department has developed guidance for landowners, developers, planners and local officials who are considering building grid-scale solar installations.

A grid-scale solar facility is one which generates power from the sun and feeds it into the power grid, supplying a utility with energy.

“As Pennsylvania’s conservation leader and trustee of the commonwealth’s natural resources, DCNR has developed guidance for landowners, developers, planners, and local officials for the siting and construction of grid-scale solar projects,” Dunn said. “The department supports advancing grid-scale solar that avoids or limits impacts on forests, wildlife, and water.”

Dunn added that renewable energy alternatives, such as solar, help to mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce the commonwealth’s greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement was made on the first day of the Sustainability Summit hosted by the GreenGov Council.

The new resource, Conservation Considerations for Siting, Planning, and Maintaining Grid-Scale Solar Systems in Pennsylvania includes a number of key resources for informed planning and decision-making.

The recommendations in the document outline 10 considerations for siting best practices and eight for sustainable design. They include:

  • Prioritize the conservation and protection of mature forests, recreational lands, plant and wildlife habitat, and vital ecosystems;
  • Prioritize siting on already disturbed lands;
  • Co-locate near existing energy infrastructure;
  • Avoid and minimize erosion and sedimentation;
  • Actively protect and restore wildlife habitat to include and support native species; and
  • Include decommissioning that restores the land to the same condition as it was before.

Grid-scale solar installations are not permitted on DCNR lands, nor on lands that have received DCNR grant funds. The guidance document is intended to help landowners, municipal officials, developers, investors, and planners make informed decisions regarding the siting and development of grid-scale solar.

Using the clean energy from the sun, the department is deploying small-scale solar arrays to take certain buildings and facilities off the grid, saving money and reducing DCNR’s carbon footprint.

Throughout state parks and forests, there currently are 23 solar array installations.

By 2030, DCNR will derive all of its electric from renewables, about half of that through solar installations.