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Oregon Legislature Weighs in on Land Use Regulation of Solar Farming

May 10, 2011

A few months ago, we reported on activity at DLCD’s Solar Rulemaking Advisory committee.  Tasked to bring some uniformity between counties in their treatment of proposed solar farms, the committee has struggled to agree on a set of rules.

As can happen in such circumstances, the legislature has recently stepped in.  The House Energy, Environment and Water Committee held a hearing and work session regarding HB 3595.

Under existing law, a solar generating facility that removes more than 12 acres from farm production typically needs county approval of an “exception” to the prevailing farm or forest plan designation for the property.  The exception process is one of the most complex in the state land use regulatory scheme.

HB 3595 would substantially increase the acreage threshold for solar farms.  Specifically, a proposed solar collecting facility using not more than 100 acres of land would require only a conditional use permit.

Looking at the trajectory of oil prices, interest in solar farming seems likely to keep growing.  The bill was referred last Friday to the Natural Resources subcommittee of the Joint Ways & Means Committee.  We will continue to monitor and report on events in Salem on how the siting of such farms will be regulated.

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