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Renewable Energy Siting - Solar: Home

The focus of this guide is the search for local land use laws relevant to siting small-scale solar energy systems. This research guide includes links to primary and secondary sources.

Introduction

Google Search

Google Search

Google offers customized searches. Advanced search offers:

  • Require / exclude words
  • Search for a phrase
  • Limit results by language
  • Limit results by format type
  • Search within a site or domain. e.g. site:gov. site:pace.edu
  • Limit by date or region
  • Require where the keywords show up

Google Scholar search includes legal opinions from all U.S. courts and many law reviews and journals. Results can be sorted by jurisdiction (state or federal) or type of document (court opinion or journal). Results can be saved when you log in with your Google account. 

Generating Search Terms - Topical

Take a few minutes to generate a list of possible search terms before you start your research. You'll probably find that there will be a family of terms that deal specifically with the non-legal aspects of your topic, and terms that relate to the legal and planning aspects of your topic. 

Let's assume we're looking for newspaper articles and other current awareness materials about siting small-scale solar systems. Think about the words that are part of your topic in terms of these categories:

  • Synonyms: solar power, solar energy system
  • Broader: renewable energy
  • Narrower Terms or Planning Terms:  solar cell, solar panel, photovoltaics, PV, solar rights, solar access, solar permits, solar siting, types of use (principal use, accessory use, secondary use, special use)
  • Related Terms: shade, ground (ground mounted), roof (roof mounted), large sized, small scale.
  • Terms of Art:   

As you review and evaluate your search results, you will learn which terms and combinations of terms are most effective in particular contexts/databases. You will be able to expand this list of search terms as your understanding of the subject area and the language used to describe it grows. 

See also the Solar Energy Glossary.

Generating Search Terms - General

In order to effectively search for local laws, it will be useful to search the Internet for collections of relevant local  laws / model laws which have been brought together by others.  Here are some search terms that are often used when describing these collections:

  • Local Laws:  bylaws, codes, local laws, ordinances, plans, comprehensive plans, master plans
  • Types of laws: overlay districts, overlay zones
  • Regional actions: intermunicipal agreements, IMAs, regional planning
  • Model [Laws]: draft [laws], model [laws], proposed [laws], sample [laws]
  • Collections: best practices, case studies, clearinghouse, success stories
  • Guidance: guidelines, handbook, manual, toolkit, toolbox
Also keep in mind the state or federal laws which may be described as:
  • enabling acts, enabling laws, enabling statutes, acts, laws, statutes, regulations