Community Centered Solar Development (CCSD) Study Interviews

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Large-scale solar (LSS, defined here as ground-mounted photovoltaic projects ≥1 MWDC) has grown rapidly in the U.S., accounting for nearly half of new electric generating capacity added to the U.S. grid in 2022. All sources of electricity bring positive and negative impacts to hosting communities and the rapid growth of LSS has increased the urgency to understand those impacts. Yet, information about the potential positive and negative impacts of LSS on host communities, and the factors or drivers leading to support or opposition to a project, is lacking. This information gap limits how project developers, municipalities, and local siting authorities can address community concerns and appropriately align proposed projects to best suit and benefit local communities.

As part of Berkeley Lab’s Community-Centered Solar Development (CCSD) project, this research set out to explore deep insights and perceptions from LSS stakeholders that only qualitative data can provide to identify key factors driving project success or threatened failure. Case studies, such as those utilized in this research, are uniquely adept at capturing the subjective experience of individuals and at identifying variables, structures, and interactions between stakeholders. Our case studies included 54 semi-structured interviews across 7 different LSS sites, representing a diversity of geographies, project sizes (MW), site types (i.e., greenfield, agrivoltaic, and brownfield / contaminated sites), zoning jurisdiction types, and more (Table 1). In addition to local residents living in close proximity to these LSS sites, we interviewed other key stakeholders involved in the projects such as developers, decision-makers, utility representatives, landowners, and individuals from community-based organizations. The overarching aim of this case study research was two-fold: (1) to inform subsequent tasks in the CCSD research project (including an upcoming national survey of LSS neighbors), and (2) to provide insights into the following set of research questions:

  • What are the key positive and negative drivers leading to support and opposition to LSS projects?
  • To what extent do LSS projects exacerbate or mitigate perceived inequities and marginalization within hosting communities and how can those inequities be mitigated going forward?
  • What strategies can communities employ to align LSS development with local land-use plans and community needs and values?

The research findings and next steps are described in the slide deck report on this page.  

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A brief overview of this study can be viewed here


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