Meeting the rigorous standards of today’s environmental regulations can go a long way toward qualifying your wind or solar energy project for Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) certification.
Development of wind and solar energy projects has increased exponentially over the past twenty years, which is the first step towards bettering our climate, future, and the economy. As development has expanded, many state and local authorities have responded with increasingly sophisticated and often rigorous standards. Coupled with federal regulations protecting wetlands, water and wildlife, permitting outcomes often come close to sustainable certification programs like the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES).
If your project is already making substantial commitments toward environmentally and socially responsible development, should you take the next step and secure the recognition that comes with SITES certification?
What is SITES?
SITES is a voluntary third-party, global rating system for sustainable land development design, construction, and maintenance. GBCI is the certification and credentialing body that administers SITES along with other project certifications such as LEED, PEER and EDGE.
SITES is analogous to LEED, but is focused on the outdoor environment. SITES certification rewards site development decisions that integrate projects with local and regional ecosystems, preserve biodiversity, and restore ecosystem elements. Although the majority of SITES activity to date has been associated with traditional development such as corporate/university campuses, municipal park systems, and government facilities, the landscape setting of wind and solar projects is well-suited for the application of SITES principles.
If you’ve been working your way through a rigorous wind or solar energy permitting process there is a good chance your project can secure SITES certification at a modest additional cost, with minimal effect on schedule. Are you avoiding impacts to wetlands, prime farmland, and endangered species? Meeting stringent storm water standards? Then you’re meeting SITES prerequisites. Is your project adding ecosystem services by establishing native plant cover for pollinators? Preserving or conserving wildlife travel corridors or other habitats? These can qualify your project for additional credits and result in a higher SITES rating.
By providing performance measures rather than prescribing practices, SITES supports the unique conditions of each site. It encourages project teams to be flexible and creative in their approach to meeting sustainability goals.
What are the benefits?
Registered projects can opt to be listed on the Sustainable Sites Initiative website, which announces that the project owner/developer has committed to ecologically and socially sustainable development principles, and that their commitments will be certified by a third party. Committing to the SITES certification process also tells agencies and municipalities that you are serious about responsible development that addresses environmental, social, and economic goals.
Achieving SITES certification identifies your company as not just “in compliance”, but as a leader in sustainability and resiliency.
- Ensures good design, reduces site development costs and identifies risk and waste early in the process.
- Saves money through smart land design and management practices that address short and long term costs.
- Addresses climate change and resiliency with potential for insurance savings.
- Provides tangible, verifiable standards that can be shared with shareholders, stakeholders, customers and funders.
- Maintains positive project and corporate branding.
How does my wind or solar energy project get certified?
A preliminary assessment by a SITES Accredited Professional (AP) is recommended before fully committing to the SITES process. This is best done early in the development process, although it is also possible to dovetail with SITES at later stages.
Studioverde’s nationally recognized SITES AP team have the expertise to do an early or late stage assessment of your project. We are also committed to making SITES certification straightforward without adding unnecessary costs. Contact Studioverde to discuss with your project specific questions.