Legal Perspectives on Bottom-up Approaches
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Marjan Peeters and Thomas Schomerus
Chapter 13: Community wind and solar: Regional renewable energy in the United States
This chapter examines bottom-up initiatives for regional renewable electricity generation in the United States to offer a comparative perspective on proposals for law reform to promote regional energy systems in Europe. It closes a circle started ten years ago by studies that drew lessons from the European experience for U.S. community wind projects. At that time, the drivers of renewable energy growth in Europe, such as financial preferences and rules for connection to the grid, were just taking shape in the United States. Since then, national, state and local governments in the United States have played vital roles in supporting private and public development of community-based renewable energy. Thus, the American experience might now offer some lessons for European policy to promote further the development of community-oriented renewable energy systems. The overall regulatory framework in the United States for wind and solar power – the dominant sources of renewable electricity generation – does not differ significantly from that in other countries. Environmental impacts of projects need to be considered; local land use regulation and the possible opposition of local residents to projects influence where projects will be developed and can block some projects. These factors often play a significant role in whether a particular commercial project can be located in a particular place. Local citizens have sometimes strongly objected to and delayed or completely blocked large onshore and offshore wind farms and concentrated solar power facilities.
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