Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool

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What is it?

The Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool (MLUST) assists municipalities in identifying the best opportunity areas for renewable energy development. To determine where renewable energy development is possible, resource availability, No-Go Areas as per regulations, and Non-Development Areas based on existing settlement and infrastructure are removed as potential development areas. As a next step, important landscape features (e.g., high value agricultural land) are identified by municipal council and staff, and are quantitatively scored by stakeholders. Spatial models are developed from this information, and areas suitable for renewable energy development will coincide with low probably conflict with the identified features. The resulting map-based tool helps to guide development decisions in such a way that makes the most sense for the community.

How can municipalities use it?

Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan aims to generate 30% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. A key challenge is to manage land use issues associated with the rapid growth in energy projects in the province. MLUST can help municipalities address land use impact through proper siting and avoidance of areas important to ecology, agriculture, or culture and scenic resources. The output of the MLUST process can be used to support development of the Municipal Development Plan (giving high-level indications of priorities, municipality-wide maps), or the Area Structure Plan (supporting broad intentions for the type and general location of different types of development).

What are the advantages?

The many advantages of the MLUST include:

The identification of areas important to ecology, agriculture, or culture and scenic resources specific to the municipality

Guides discussion between municipal staff, developers, and council members on renewable energy development

Supports decisions on renewable energy development

Can act as a starting point to engage community members on renewable energy development

The process is quick, around six months.

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. The following should be considered of MLUST:

  • The results are non-regulatory and do not necessarily prevent renewable development from occurring on land identified as high value for other land uses

  • The process relies on the availability and accuracy of spatial data used to represent identified features.

  • Due to scale of available data, the tool is not a parcel level assessment. Further investigation may be needed once a development interest is indicated.

  • The process represents diverse perspectives and not the opinions of individual participants.

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

MLUST helps to maintain the natural infrastructure system when the municipality and stakeholders value lands of high ecological value. When identified in the MLUST process, these lands of ecological importance can be considered and avoided when making decisions on where to develop renewable energy.

Resources

A Path Forward, Identifying Least-Conflict Solar PV Development in California’s San Joaquin Valley – This document describes the stakeholder-led process that Conservation Biology Institute, UC Berkeley School of Law, and Terrell Watt Planning Consultants undertook to explore how multiple and diverse parties could quickly (within six months) identify least-conflict lands for solar photovoltaic development from their perspectives. The document also describes key findings and recommendations.

PDF Nicole’s resources


Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool (MLUST) for Municipal District of Pincher Creek – The Miistakis Institute and the Oldman River Regional Services Commission (ORRSC) developed the Municipal Land Use Suitability Tool (MLUST) to assist the Municipal District of Pincher Creek in identifying where renewable energy development is most suitable in consideration of high valued agricultural, ecological and cultural lands.


Least Conflict LandsMunicipal Decision Support Tool for Siting Renewable Energy Development – The Miistakis Institute partnered with the County of Newell and Wheatland County to develop a least conflict lands decision support tool to inform planning of renewable energy development.


Miistakis Institute – Conservation research charity based at Mount Royal University in Calgary with expertise on municipal conservation.


Conservation Biology Institute – Conservation Biology Institute provides scientific expertise to support the conservation and recovery of biological diversity in its natural state through applied research, education, planning, and community service.


Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE), University of California, UC Berkeley School of Law, CA – The Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE) channels the expertise of the Berkeley Law community – faculty, staff, and students – into pragmatic, creative policy solutions to critical environmental and energy challenges.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

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