A new local law regulating the use of solar energy in the town of Catskill will soon be going into effect.
The Town Board recently held a public hearing on the law authorizing adoption of zoning provisions that would allow solar farms in the town and permit the addition of solar energy systems on individual homes.
Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis said the town has been gauging a lot of interest from individual homeowners and solar energy companies who want to know the requirements the town has for alternative energy systems.
“It’s something we needed to do; a lot of large companies have approached us about renting land for solar farms,” Davis said. “This is going to allow for more consistency with homeowners when they install their own systems.”
According to the law, the town wants to “take advantage of safe, abundant, renewable and non-polluting energy resources” and to “decrease the cost of energy to the owners of commercial and residential properties.”
Davis said the law was also important for first responders who need to know in an emergency situation if a solar-energy system has been installed on a resident’s roof.
The supervisor said the emergency responders’ concerns were voiced by Town Councilman Patrick McCulloch, who is the second assistant fire chief of the Catskill Fire Company and has a background in emergency management.
A placard would be placed on the property of a business or individual to acknowledge the presence of solar equipment. A poster would also prevent future injuries of emergency responders.
“Chairman [Joseph] Izzo and the rest of the planning board spent a lot of time working on this law and looked at specific examples from other towns when drafting the law,” Davis said. “We passed the law the same night we had the public hearing.”
The law defines several industry terms to assist individuals interested in solar energy — such as what a large scale solar energy system, solar panel and solar energy collector is.
Solar energy collectors are permitted only to provide power for use by owners, lessees, tenants, residents or other occupants on the premises where solar panels are erected.
Building permits are required in all zoning districts for installation of all solar energy equipment, collectors that are stationary or for collectors mounted on roofs or on the ground.
According to the law, a building permit may be waived by the town’s code enforcement officer for portable solar energy collectors that are not installed on a permanent basis.
“This law is very much beneficial; it’s an alternative source of energy for residents to consider in the future,” Davis said.
No roof-mounted solar energy systems can be taller than 10 feet. Ground-based systems cannot exceed a height of 15 feet and cannot cover more than 60 percent of the lot on which it is installed.
Large scale solar farms are allowed in the town through the issuance of a special use permit in agricultural, high density residential, general commercial and industrial zoning districts.
All large systems must be enclosed by a fence to prevent unauthorized access and warning signs with the owner’s contact information must be placed on the entrance and perimeter of the fencing.