Superior commission adds solar farms to zoning code

The ordinance would make it possible to develop energy producing facilities in any area of the city.

Superior Solar community solar garden rendering
Superior Water, Light and Power plans its first solar garden near Heritage Park in Superior on land owned by the company. (Courtesy of SWL&P)
Contributed / Superior Water, Light and Power

Superior’s Plan Commission approved a change to the zoning code to allow construction of solar farms in any of the city’s zoning districts.

Under the proposed change, those facilities would be required to be larger than an acre; solar structures must be mounted to the ground; site improvements would be required; and no structure could exceed 20 feet in height. Solar panels must minimize glare and the site must be fenced for safety and provide ecological benefit.

Councilor Brent Fennessey said he was concerned about the height limit because of the potential impact on a residential or park setting. He questioned the impact of reducing the height limit to 10 or 12 feet in a residential area.

“It would not give us the kilowatt output to sit on the footprint that we have set there,” said Jon Allen of Superior Water, Light and Power.

  • RELATED: Public Service Commission approves Superior solar garden The project would create the first local electric generation source since 1981.
  • RELATED: Superior Council transfers land for solar garden Property would revert back to the city if renewable energy project ceases

The height of the panels is about 14.5 feet tall, angled at 45 degrees.
“This is just the absolute maximum we would accept,” Mayor Jim Paine said, adding the 20 foot height would be more appropriate in an industrial area than a residential neighborhood.


Anyone choosing to operate a solar farm would be required to obtain a special use permit, which would still have to be approved by the Plan Commission and the City Council.

The change in the zoning code is necessary for Superior Water, Light and Power to build its planned solar garden near Heritage Park.

“This is approving the requirements for any type of solar garden, whether it’s located at 28th and Hammond, or Fifth and 26th Avenue East,” said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director. “They have to be large. They have to be screened. They have to have a landscape plan.”

Solar energy production is a lucrative business and there are likely to be others in the future, Paine said.

Serck said one of the bigger issues his department came across while researching what other communities have done was decommissioning of solar farms.

Superior’s zoning code would place responsibility for decommissioning and removal on the operator of the solar farm.

Fennessey said he would back off the height issue and welcome additional information before the ordinance goes to the council for consideration Dec. 1.

The commission approved the ordinance without any changes to the proposed height limit.


Serck said he expects the company to apply for a special use permit in the near future, once the ordinance is in place.

What To Read Next
Get Local