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Community Solar: Zoning Ordinances and Special Use Permits

Illinois Power Agency’s Draft Approved Vendor Application and Standards

(released for comments on October 3, 2018)

Draft of requirements for registering as an Approved Vendor for the Illinois Adjustable Block Program

Final Approved Vendor Application and Standards guidelines will be posted by the Illinois Power Agency on or before November 1, 2018 at


Illinois Solar Energy Association, "Solar Local Zoning and Building Regulation in Illinois" Principles for zoning for solar developments, including community solar.


Guidance and Model for Community Solar Ordinance

Coalition for Community Solar Access, "Community Solar Policy Decision Matrix 2017". 

The policy decision matrix provides recommendations in five areas:

  1. Program Structure
  2. Compensation
  3. Consumer Participation
  4. Project Characteristics
  5. Low-to-Moderate Income Considerations

Template Solar Energy Development Ordinance for North Carolina (2013)

"Constructing solar energy projects requires numerous considerations and entails a thorough process of siting, permitting, and construction. These projects represent valuable assets in the community – creating local construction jobs, workforce training, economic development, increased property tax base, and ongoing educational opportunities.  The permitting process generates discussion in communities with respect to the size and location of projects. Larger systems are often sited on farmland, forestland, or other open spaces, which can impact multiple residents. Responsible development of solar resources in North Carolina requires careful and consistent regulation in order to preserve important existing resources while facilitating the growth of this valuable new industry."

Decommissioning Solar Panel Systems (New York State Fact Sheet, Sept. 2016) 

Guidance on defining abandonment, decommissioning steps and costs, and mechanisms for ensuring decommissioning.

Black Hills (Colorado) Electric Utility Company

  • 2017 Request for Proposals: Energy and Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from Qualified Community Solar Gardens 
  • Community Solar Garden Producer Agreement
  • Subscriber Agency Agreement
  • Low Income Verification Form
  • Interconnection Application/Agreement for Parallel Generation Service

Illinois zoning ordinances and special use permits

Adopted solar zoning ordinance on August 23, 2018.  See description of some provisions in the tab General Resources - Case Studies - Illinois Case Studies.


1. Carroll County

2. Champaign County

The Carroll County Zoning Board approved an ordinance for solar farms on July 19, 2018.  Setbacks for the solar energy system shall be at least 100 feet for residentially zoned lots and existing residential properties, 100 feet from a county or state road, and 60 feet from the center of a township road. The applicant must propose and implement a landscaping and grass plan.  The decommissioning plan shall include removal of all structures, restoration of soil and vegetation, and ensuring financial resources.

Adopted solar zoning ordinance on August 23, 2018.  See description of some provisions in the tab General Resources - Case Studies - Illinois Case Studies.

3. Christian County 4. DeKalb County

Adopted Solar Energy Facilities Ordinance on November 21, 2017. Requires setback of at least 100 feet from any residence (50 feet from the property line) and decommissioning plan covering removal of structures and foundations, restoration of soil and vegetation, and ensuring financial resources.  The County Board approved a special use permit for a solar farm on March 27, 2018.

Passed the Solar Energy System Ordinance on March 21, 2018.  "DeKalb County Board approves solar power ordinance." Among other provisions, the ordinance provides that:

  • Solar Gardens (no more than 20 acres) are allowed in all zoning districts.  They require a Special Use Permit, except with the consent of all property owners adjoining the lot on with the Solar Garden is to be located.
  • Solar Farms must be set back at least 100 feet from a property line.
  • No fencing is required.
  • Reflection angles must not project glare onto adjacent properties.
  • Soils must be planted to and maintained in perennial vegetation to prevent erosion and manage run off.
  • Applicant, Owner, or Operator shall maintain a current general liability policy covering bodily injury and property damage with limits of at least $3 million per occurrence and $5 million in the aggregate. Such insurance may be provided pursuant to a plan of self- insurance, by a party with a net worth of $20 million or more. The County shall be named as an individual insured on the policy to the extent the county is entitled to indemnification. 
  • Decommissioning plan required when applying for all Solar Farms and Solar Gardens.  After operation ceases, solar panels must be decommissioned within 90 days and decommissioning must be complete within 6 months.  The posting of a bond to ensure proper decommissioning may be required prior to the issuance of a building permit.

This ordinance ends a moratorium on developing solar farms in the county that was passed on March 15, 2017.

5. Grundy County 6. Henry County
Amended its land use ordinances in 2012 to provide for solar farms.  See Sec. 8-2-5-30: Solar Farms

Henry County adopted a revised Solar Energy Ordinance on April 19, 2018.  Requires setback of 150 feet from a residential zoned lot.  Provides for proof of an Agricultural Impact Mitigations Agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture as needed; consultation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on endangered species and wetlands; an erosion control and storm water management plan; and a decommissioning plan that includes updated cost estimates every five years and financial security.

7. Iroquois County 8. Kankakee

Solar Energy Ordinance

- Approved August 8, 2017

- Ground mounted solar energy systems as part of a solar farm located in A1 and A2 zoning districts shall have a setback for all equipment excluding fences a minimum of 80 feet on the front from center of road and 20 feet from all other property lines, with the exception of single family dwellings, in which the solar energy system shall have a setback for all equipment, excluding fences, be setback 150 feet for single family dwelling,

- Landscaping - Solar Farms shall have a twenty-five (25) foot wide buffer of which part shall be consisting of a compact evergreen hedge or other type of evergreen foliage which shall be along the road frontage and perimeter of adjacent single family dwelling.

- Decommissioning plan and security financing

In May 2017, Kankakee County adopted the Solar Farm amendment to the County's Zoning Ordinance.  See Kankakee County Zoning Ordinance, Agriculture District, solar Farm (Sec. 121-99(34)) and Skimerhorn, D. and Blair, E., "Solar Energy Development Informational Report to the Kankakee County Board".  

The ordinance requires front setbacks of 100 feet, and 50 foot setbacks from all other property lines (except for a 100 foot setback from properties which contain an existing residence or are zoned for residential use).  The solar farm must be enclosed by fencing of at least 8 feet in height.  Each application for a solar farm requires a decommission plan and decommissioning security financing.
9. Knox County 10. Lee County

Knox County Solar Energy System Ordinance approved August 23, 2017, with provisions for solar gardens (5 acres or less) and solar farms (over 5 acres)Solar farms require perimeter fences and panels must be at least 500 feet from a residence

Decommissioning plan required when applying for a use permit, bond must be posted, and decommissioning must be completed within 6 months after operations cease

December 19, 2017: Adopted Solar Farm Ordinance with setbacks of 50 feet in an agricultural district and 300 feet from a residence, and liability insurance naming the County as an additional insured (limits at least $2 million per occurrence and $5 million in aggregate)

11. McLean County

12. Menard County

McLean County ordinance (page 31) adopted on June 16, 2015 with standards for solar power generating facilities, including setbacks, lighting, erosion control and stormwater management plans, plantings for soil stabilization, equipment removal and site restoration, and access points.  McLean County Code Section 350-43.OO (3) (Use Standards for a solar power generating facility).

Menard County adopted a solar ordinance on June 12, 2018. Solar panels must be at least 500 feet from a residence.  Solar farm developers must initiate a review of endangered species and wetlands with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and must agree to an Agricultural Improvement Mitigation Agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  The decommissioning plan includes updated cost estimates every five years.

13. Mercer County


14. Montgomery County

Mercer County Zoning Ordinance, Solar Energy Facilities (March 2017) set back of at least 100 feet from a residence in a non-residential area, and at least 50 feet in a residential area; solar energy facility must be fenced completely; removal within 8 months of notice of abandonment or termination of operations; elements of decommissioning plan, including financial assurance equal to the decommissioning cost 

On April 11, 2018, the Montgomery County Board adopted an Ordinance for Solar Energy Farm and Solar Garden Installations in Unincorporated Montgomery County, Illinois”.  Solar panels must be at least 500 feet from a residence (unless the land owner signs a waiver), and a solar farm must be setback at least 60 feet from the right-of-way of any public road.  The decommissioning plan must provide for funds held in an escrow account and updated cost estimates every five years.

15. Peoria


16. Richmond
Solar Energy Code adopted in East Peoria on January 16, 2018.  Community solar projects are allowed by special use in all zoning districts, subject to requirements on principal structure setback, height and coverage limitations. Passed An ordinance Amending the Village Zoning Code to Allow for Installation and Operation of Wind and Solar Renewable Energy Systems on June 11, 2018
17. Sangamon County

18. Stephenson County

Passed Text Amendment to Sangamon County Zoning Ordinance Regarding Chapter 17.37 Solar Energy Systems on September 11, 2018

For solar farm energy systems, establishes setback of at least 250 feet from an existing dwelling, requires landscaping screening for any part that is visible from an existing dwelling within 500 feet, and requires an estimate of decommissioning costs along with an approved financial plan to ensure that funds will be available for decommissioning and land restoration.

On September 10, 2018, the City of Freeport adopted an Ordinance Regarding the Regulation and Zoning of Solar Energy Systems.  The ordinance includes provisions for large scale systems, over one acre of land or rooftop.

19. Tazewell County

20. Whiteside County

The Tazewell County Solar Energy Systems Ordinance was adopted on May 31, 2017 and amended on September 1, 2018.  Solar panels must be setback at least 100 feet from a residence.

June 8, 2017: published Solar Farm Ordinance; allows solar gardens (up to 5 acres) in unincorporated areas, and solar farms by special-use permits in agricultural districts, airport safety zones, and at the landfill; minimum setbacks of 50 feet on all property lines, and 500 feet from a residence
21. Woodford County  

On March 22, 2018, Woodford County adopted a zoning ordinance for solar energy systems. The property lines for a solar farm project and solar panels must be at least 500 feet from a residence.  The solar developer must execute an Agriculture Impact Mitigation Agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and complete a consultation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  The County Board requires a surety bond in the amount of 110% of the estimated decommissioning cost.  That cost estimate must be updated every five years.