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The Cape Cod Commission developed a model solar bylaw for large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations in response to a recommendation from the region’s Climate Action Plan and as part of a Planning Assistance Grant, "Responding to Climate Change: Promoting Resilient Local Action", funded by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Climate change is a major challenge facing Cape Cod and transitioning our regional energy sector to renewable forms of energy, including solar energy, is essential. However, another major challenge facing the region is the appropriate siting and regulating of large-scale solar projects that considers the Cape’s unique resources and protects the public’s health, safety, and welfare. These complex challenges highlight the need for thoughtful and balanced planning for solar energy development on Cape Cod.

Model Bylaw

In 2021, the Commission completed a Climate Action Plan for the region that includes a set of recommendations for addressing climate change, including the development of a model bylaw for large-scale solar projects to provide guidance to Cape communities as they seek to enhance renewable energy opportunities in appropriate areas.

The model solar bylaw is a regulatory tool for Cape Cod communities to consider incorporating, in whole or in part, into their local bylaws to help guide the appropriate review and permitting of these large-scale facilities. This regulatory tool complements the Commission’s planning work to develop a Large-Scale Solar Screening Tool to help guide the appropriate siting of large-scale solar installations on Cape Cod.

This model was developed by combining and adapting language from model solar bylaws prepared by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, as well as from the Town of Athol’s solar bylaw – itself the product of a comprehensive review of existing bylaws from over 100 Commonwealth communities. In addition, information from the towns on Cape Cod with existing Large-Scale Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Installation bylaws was reviewed and incorporated into this model as was applicable Commission guidance.

Use of this model and the Commission’s large-scale solar screening tool will help communities balance renewable energy development – needed for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and production of locally-generated electricity – with conservation of our natural and agricultural lands – needed for their carbon storage and sequestration potential, as well as the numerous other environmental and societal services these lands provide.

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