Santa Clara County - Solar and Wind Energy Conversion Systems

June 02, 2020


Commercial Solar Energy Conversion Systems

Commercial solar energy conversion system uses shall comply with all of the requirements of this section. Such uses are not allowed on any land designated Agriculture—Large scale (over 10,000 sq ft). Such uses may be allowed on lands with a general plan designation of Agriculture—Medium scale (between 2,400 and 10,000 sq ft), provided that the subject lot is deemed by the decision-maker to be of marginal quality for agricultural purposes. 

The systems are not allowed on any land located within the -d 1 (Santa Clara Valley Viewshed) and -d 2 (Milpitas Hillsides) design review combining districts.

Commercial solar energy systems are subject to the following provisions. Structures must be setback 30 feet, signs visible from a public road shall only identify the manufacturer, installer, or owner of the system, the system should be designed to allow continued use of the site for wildlife habitat and migration across the site, the facility should minimize soil disturbance to the maximum extent possible, and shall not substantially alter drainage from the site.

No system shall be allowed on lands subject to a California Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act) contract unless permitted as a compatible use.

Solar energy conversion systems and all related equipment and accessory structures shall be removed following cessation of use as defined in either Section 5.40.070 or Section 5.65.050 of the Zoning Ordinance. A Closure and Rehabilitation Plan shall be submitted to the Planning Office prior to the issuance of any building permits for the systems.

Accessory Energy Conversion Systems

Solar and wind energy conversion systems that are accessory to a principal structure or use and will be used primarily to reduce onsite consumption of utility power shall comply with the applicable provisions of this section.

Solar panels and other types of solar energy systems may be placed on any portion of a lot other than within the front yard setback applicable to the principal structure. In the case of a corner lot, no such panels shall be placed within an exterior side setback adjacent to the street. Solar panels attached to the roof of a building shall not exceed the structure's maximum allowed height by more than five (5) feet.

Wind energy conversion systems (consisting of a wind turbine, a tower, and associated control or conversion electronics) with rated capacity of not more than 50 kilowatts per customer site that will be used primarily to reduce onsite consumption of utility power shall comply with all of the provisions found in Part M of Sec. 4.20.020.

Program Overview

Implementing Sector: Local
Category: Regulatory Policy
State: California
Incentive Type: Solar/Wind Access Policy
Web Site:
Start Date:
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
  • Solar Thermal Electric
  • Solar Photovoltaics
  • Wind (All)


Name: County of Santa Clara Ordinance Code
Date Enacted: 10/01/1980


Name: County of Santa Clara Department of Planning and Development
Address: 70 West Hedding Street, East Wing, 7th Floor
San Jose CA 95110
Phone: (408) 299-5770
Name: Kirk Girard

This information is sourced from DSIRE; the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.