Some types of residential arrays are prohibited by new legislation
A new solar energy law adopted by the Town Board sets limits on where large solar energy arrays can be built, while also setting standards for residential roof-mounted arrays.
Large commercial solar energy arrays — often called “solar farms” — would be kept out of residential zones but would be allowed in “highway commercial,” “research and technology,” “riverfront recreation/commercial” and “airport” zoning districts. Small-scale, ground-mounted panel arrays would also be allowed in those zones, but not in residential areas.
Each project will require a special permit from the town, with review when appropriate by the town Planning and Zoning Commission. Under the law, solar farm arrays could cover no more than 25 percent of the property on which they are built.
The law allows rooftop residential arrays, though ground-mounted systems in residential backyards are prohibited. Visible ground-mounted solar panels in residential yards have led to neighbor opposition in other local communities.
The new law is the town’s first effort to regulate a renewable energy option that has grown in popularity in recent years, as prices for photovoltaic systems have fallen. There are a number of rooftop solar arrays already installed on residential and commercial buildings in town, but until now, there have been no specific standards for such systems. They have, however, been subject to the town review process, since they count as an additional structure on a property.
“This is a huge step forward in dealing with solar,” Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said. “Before, we were dealing with them just the same way as if they were sheds. I think it’s a big step forward for the town in welcoming solar.”
Koetzle said the town’s law is based generally on a law adopted earlier this year by the town of Rotterdam, which has also seen an increase in demand for solar energy installations.
“It is a smart way to manage the development of solar energy in our community,” Councilman James Martin said.
At a meeting last week, the Town Board also made permanent what had been a temporary partial property tax exemption available to Cold War veterans. There are 114 properties in town whose owners have the exemption, out of nearly 3,000 properties in the town — meaning making it permanent won’t shift much of a tax burden to other properties.
“It’s marginal as far as the impact on taxes,” Koetzle said.