Falcon Heights

Encouraging Solar by Removing Obstacles in the Local Ordinance

As a small community of about 5,000 people in 2 square miles, Falcon Heights encourages the use of solar energy as a natural, renewable energy source. The City’s comprehensive plan addresses the protection and development of solar energy systems and indicates it will also protect solar by enforcing and strengthening its ordinance. 

The City discovered their solar ordinance initially had unintended barriers for solar implementation. Armed with good resources and examples, Falcon Heights modernized their ordinance, which included eliminating the requirement for a conditional use permit and made solar energy a permitted accessory use in all zones.

<div class='lb-heading'>City Hall Solar Panels</div><div class='lb-text'>In 2012, Falcon Heights had solar panels installed on the roof of the City Hall.  Solar power now accounts for 40-60% of City Hall’s  power. </div> <div class='lb-heading'>City Hall Solar Panels 2</div><div class='lb-text'>The City has a 40,000 open system through Dakota Electric, which is supplementing the City’s utility.  The City initially leases the panels and will own them in the future. </div> <div class='lb-heading'>City Hall Solar Panels 3</div><div class='lb-text'>The city receives energy credits through Xcel and also receives grant funding. </div> <div class='lb-heading'>City Hall Solar Panels 4</div><div class='lb-text'>The City sees solar use is a long-term benefit for sustainability with reduced future cost. Falcon Heights City Hall is in the State of Minnesota’s B3 Benchmarking building energy management system program.  The City Hall ranks well with its energy performance and scores.  </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Solar Panels - Single-Family Residential </div><div class='lb-text'>Falcon Height’s Mayor, Peter Lindstrom,  Mayor Lindstrom has been a champion for solar in the City.  Mayor Lindstrom’s home was the first residential building in the city to have solar panels.  </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Solar Panels - Single-Family Residential 2</div><div class='lb-text'>In addition to being a sustainable energy source, homeowners are finding solar panels to be a smart investment with decreasing payback times and improved property values.    </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Solar Panels - Multi-Family Residential </div><div class='lb-text'>Within the City there are solar installations on single-family, multi-family, and City-owned buildings. </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Solar Panels - Multi-Family Residential 2</div><div class='lb-text'>Solar panels are on the roof an apartment complex at Fairview and Larpenteur in Falcon Heights.</div>
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The updated ordinances also provide for standards for setback, height, visibility, and location. The resulting solar ordinance update was unanimously approved and without opposition. These small changes made a big difference in helping to successfully implement solar in the City. 


What may help other communities?

Good Resources

The City described the process of removing obstacles from their solar ordinance as being easy and without conflict. Part of this was due to the valuable resources and support provided through the Minnesota Solar Energy Challenge, including a model solar ordinance. The City used the model solar ordinance as a guide to determine which updates were needed. In addition, they reviewed solar ordinance of neighboring communities and evaluated the updates to make sure the changes didn’t create unintended conflicts. When developing the updated ordinance, Falcon Heights found that it was important to have good definitions, including for active and passive solar systems.  


To encourage solar installations, the City hosted workshops to share information about solar resources. These workshops were in partnership with the MetroClean Energy Resource Team . The workshops discussed basics of solar power systems, provided tools and information about incentives and rebates, and discussed common misperceptions. The workshops also included a panel of people that discussed how solar has worked for them, which included the Mayor. To provide additional opportunities for solar, the City ensured a reasonable permit fee and signed up for a discount program that makes solar more affordable for its homeowners. The City has also been researching ways for residents in areas of limited solar access to participate in a cooperative solar garden. 


Partnerships and participation with Green Step Cities, Regional Indicators Initiative (RII), and B3 Benchmarking all contribute to the comprehensive plan’s goal of adopting and encouraging best practices for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. Falcon Heights was one of the pilot cities for Minnesota GreenStep Cities, which helps cities achieve sustainability goals through of best practices focused on cost savings, energy use reduction, and innovation. Falcon Heights was also pilot city for RII, which measures annual performance metrics for 22 Minnesota cities committed to increasing their overall efficiency and level of sustainability. The City also participates in the State of Minnesota’s B3 Benchmarking, which is an energy tracking, benchmarking, and reporting system developed to help manage, improve, and monitor the energy efficiency of existing public buildings.   

Awards and Recognitions

  • Step3 GreenStep City

  • Regional Indicators Initiative Participant

  • B3 Benchmarking Participant

Contact the City of Falcon Heights

Sack Thongvanh, City Administrator, (651) 792-7611, [email protected]

More solar resources are linked here.

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