As reported in our 2024 Utility-Scale Solar Forecast, there’s been a recent increase in counties and other Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) severely restricting or outright prohibiting new solar developments. Although more than 1,000 of the country’s 3,114 total counties now host some sort of solar installation, opposition has been growing lately. A new analysis of county-level policies by USA TODAY showed that half of the current 116 bans or impediments to utility-scale solar plants were implemented in 2023.


These findings align with the results of a first-of-its-kind survey released around the same time by the Energy Analysis and Environmental Impacts (EAEI) Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Conducted throughout 2023, EAEI surveyed industry professionals with direct experience working in community engagement and permitting land-based, utility-scale solar and wind energy facilities in the U.S. 


The survey revealed that about 33% of wind and solar siting applications submitted in the last five years were canceled, and half experienced delays of six or more months, with solar facing slightly more delays and cancellations than wind. Respondents cited local ordinances or zoning, grid interconnection, community opposition, and supply chain issues as the leading causes of utility-scale solar project cancellations and significant delays.


Of these four leading causes of delays or project cancellations, community opposition and supply chain stand out as the opportunities that developers have more capacity to influence via community engagement and strategic decision-making.


The Importance of Engaging with Local Communities

We’ve explored this topic in a blog before, but it’s worth revisiting in light of Berkeley Lab’s survey results showing developers “believe that community engagement addresses community concerns and decreases opposition,” with most agreeing that “increased engagement results in fewer project cancelations (75%) and local concerns are adequately addressed before project construction (66%).”


In that piece, we noted a few considerations for developers when engaging communities about local utility solar projects:

  • Notify communities at the earliest stage in development possible about proposed new utility-scale solar projects in their area.

  • Convene informal town halls to help residents learn about the project and the environmental and economic benefits it will bring to their communities.

  • Create brochures, digital content, and other informational documents using non-technical language that residents can easily understand.

  • Work with the communities’ choices to represent their interests and serve as their technical advocates.

  • Study and pursue community-informed options and engage in collaborative efforts with affected residents.


Consider Public Land Sites for Utility-Scale Solar

Federally managed land offers developers a potential avenue to avoid time-consuming input from and engagement with local communities regarding utility-scale solar siting. Pursuing this option shows additional promise with the recent release of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) latest draft analysis of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Utility-Scale Solar Energy Development, commonly referred to as the Western Solar Plan.


BLM first published the plan in 2012 to guide responsible solar development on public lands with high solar potential and low resource conflicts. Initially covering six states, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, the latest version expands the area to include Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. Currently, the Western Solar Plan identifies 22 million acres across these 11 states that are best suited for solar development, particularly areas with fewer sensitive resources, less conflict with other public land usage, and close proximity to transmission lines, including 200,000 acres near existing transmission infrastructure.


While pursuing siting options on public lands can be a great way to sidestep the growing opposition from local communities, the bidding process for government contracts can be highly competitive. Developers interested in pursuing this option should consider partnering with a company that offers a total solar solution for utility-scale solar installations to enhance the overall project value and gain that competitive edge. Trina Solar’s TrinaPro solution bundles bifacial Vertex 670W PV modules, TrinaTracker, and Trina Storage for optimized system performance, reduced balance-of-system (BOS) costs, and lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE).


Skip the Solar Supply Chain Delays

With local ordinances or zoning, grid interconnection, and community opposition creating risks of delays and cancellations, supply chain issues are the last thing developers need.


Not only does Trina Solar US have a proven track record of module supply success, but the company is currently developing a new state-of-the-art 5GW manufacturing facility in Wilmer, Texas. Scheduled to begin production in mid-2024, Trina Solar US will domestically manufacture the Made-In-America TOPCon and PERC PV modules needed to stock these 22 million acres in western states and more.


Interested in partnering with the TrinaPro team for maximum utility-scale solar project value? Reach out to our local team today!

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