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DCNR Releases New Guidelines for Siting, Planning, and Maintaining Grid-Scale Solar Systems in Pennsylvania

Released January 2023 via the Pennsylvania GreenGov Council Newsletter

New Guiding Sustainability Principles for Large Solar
Interest in harnessing power through solar energy is increasing and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has developed guidance for entities across Pennsylvania that 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. 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.

The new resource, Conservation Considerations for Siting, Planning, and Maintaining Grid-Scale Solar Systems in Pennsylvania (PDF) includes a number of key resources for informed planning and decision-making. The recommendations in the document outline considerations for siting best practices and 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.

Though DCNR does not permit grid-scale solar installations, 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. By 2030, DCNR will derive all its electric from renewables, about half of that through solar installations.

Renewable energy alternatives, such as solar, help to mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce the commonwealth's greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, there are more than 14,000 solar systems operating in Pennsylvania, and the Wolf Administration encourages private citizens to consider going solar in their homes.

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Pennsylvania Audubon Council White Paper, Guidelines for Municipalities: Bird-Friendly and Environmentally Responsible Utility-Scale Solar

Please find attached a “Release” and an “Executive Summary” of Pennsylvania Audubon Council's recent white paper regarding Guidelines for Municipalities: Bird-Friendly and Environmentally Responsible Utility-Scale Solar. The white paper is authored by the Pennsylvania Audubon Council’s Renewable Energy Committee which is solely responsible for its content.


The PA Audubon Council was formed in 2020 to serve Audubon chapters in Pennsylvania. The Council seeks to advocate for the conservation and preservation of birds, other wildlife and the environment on which they depend through the sharing of resources and ideas among and between the chapters, and in collaboration with other conservation partners.

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Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: Toolkit for Solar on Schools

The Energy Programs Office (EPO), with support from its contractor the Philadelphia Solar Energy Association, has initiated work on developing a Toolkit for Solar on Schools in Pennsylvania. The goals of this project are to accelerate adoption of solar energy on schools and nonprofits statewide by educating key decision makers and streamlining processes, maximize Pennsylvania’s utilization of federal funding made available through the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA), and reduce soft costs and shorten the learning curve for solar adoption at schools.

The payback from reducing electricity costs over the life of the panels can help schools keep their taxes lower and afford more educational opportunities for their students. In addition, health benefits will be gained from cleaner air and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to using conventional electricity from the grid.

Project point person, Liz Robinson is a local solar expert recognized across the state.  Schools need only provide a copy of their electric bills, and Liz will then analyze school rooftops and compare annual electric usage with how much potential electricity could be generated via solar. If the analysis is favorable, Liz will help find funding sources.  Contact Liz with questions or get started at [email protected]. The deadline to apply June 30.

A series of webinars are available to help learn about the program

  • May Webinar: Overview of Getting Solar (View SLIDES / View RECORDING)
  • June 8, 9:30AM: Solar Success Stories from 3 Districts (REGISTER)
  • June 29, 9:30AM: Financing Options for School Districts (REGISTER)

GET Solar Communities, PA SolarCorps

The PA SolarCorps is a volunteer initiative created by the Pennsylvania Solar Center to help map the solar potential of properties in our GET Solar Communities program. GET Solar Communities empowers community leaders to encourage non-residential property owners, such as businesses, nonprofits, schools, faith communities, etc. to explore solar through our GET Solar program, which provides interested entities with technical support and trusted guidance to help each organization go solar.

You can visit to learn more about the GET Solar Communities program and currently enrolled communities.