2017 Big Flats Proposed Solar Ordinance

TOWN OF BIG FLATS PROPOSED SOLAR ORDINANCE  2017

A new Chapter 17.36.341 entitled “Solar Siting” is hereby added to Title 17 “Zoning” of the Town of Big Flats Municipal Code to read as follows:

17.36.341  Solar Siting

Intent.

It is in the public interest to provide for and encourage renewable energy systems and a sustainable quality of life, the purpose of this Chapter is to facilitate the development and operation of renewable energy systems based on sunlight. Solar energy systems are appropriate in all zoning districts when measures are taken, as provided in this section, to minimize adverse impacts on neighboring properties and protect the public health, safety and welfare. Solar farms should complement the municipality and its residents’ way of life and not be solely a method to replace otherwise viably or future use of property in the Town, for example, tillable farmland, tree removal, impact upon future development in the area due to utility requirements for operation of the solar farm with commercially viable premises, as well as quality of life issues. This legislation is not intended to override agricultural exemptions that are currently in place.

B.              Definitions.

As used in this Chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated, unless the context or subject matter requires otherwise.

BUILDING - INTEGRATED PHOTOVOLTAIC (BIPV) SYSTEMS - A solar energy system that consists of integrating photovoltaic modules into the building structure, such as the roof or the facade and which does not alter the relief of the roof.

COLLECTIVE SOLAR - Solar installations owned collectively through subdivision homeowner associations, college student groups, “adopt-a-solar-panel” programs, or other similar arrangements.

FLUSH MOUNTED SOLAR PANEL - A photovoltaic panel or tile that is installed flush to the surface of a roof or wall of a principal and/or accessory structure and which cannot be angled or raised.

FREESTANDING OR GROUND-MOUNTED SOLAR COLLECTOR SYSTEM - A solar collector system that is directly installed in the ground and is not attached or affixed to an existing structure. Pole mounted solar energy systems shall be considered Freestanding or Ground-Mounted Solar Energy Systems for purposes of this Local Law.

GLARE – The effect produced by light with intensity sufficient to cause annoyance, discomfort, or loss in visual performance and visibility.

MINOR SOLAR COLLECTION SYSTEM – A solar photovoltaic cell, panel or array, or solar hot air or water collector device, which relies upon solar radiation as an energy source for collection, inversion, storage, and distribution of solar energy for electricity generation or transfer of stored heat, secondary to the use of the premises for other lawful purposes with the total surface area of all solar collectors on the lot not to exceed 3,000 square feet.

MAJOR SOLAR COLLECTION STSYEM OR SOLAR FARM - Energy generation facility or area of land principally used to convert solar energy to electricity, whether by photovoltaics, concentrating solar thermal devices or various experimental solar technologies, with the primary purpose of wholesale or retail sales of electricity, but also may be for on-site use. Solar farm facilities consist of one or more freestanding ground- or roof-mounted solar collector devices, solar-related equipment and other accessory structures and buildings, including light reflectors, concentrators, and head exchangers, substations, electrical infrastructure, transmission lines and other appurtenant structures and facilities

NET-METERING - A billing arrangement that allows solar customers to get credit for excess electricity that they generate and deliver back to the grid so that they only pay for their net electricity usage at the end of the month.

PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV) SYSTEMS - A solar energy system that produces electricity by the use of semiconductor devices, called photovoltaic cells that generate electricity whenever light strikes them.

QUALIFIED SOLAR INSTALLER - A person who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of solar electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training on the hazards involved. Persons who are on the list of eligible photovoltaic installers maintained by the New York State Energy Research and Development authority (NYSERDA), or who are certified as a solar installer by the North American Board Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), shall be deemed to be qualified solar installers for the purposes of this definition.

ROOF TOP OR BUILDING MOUNTED SOLAR COLLECTOR SYSTEM - A solar collector system in which solar panels are mounted on top of the structure of a roof either as a flush- mounted system or as modules fixed to frames which can be tilted toward the south at an optimal angle.

SETBACK - The distance from a front lot line, side lot line or rear lot line of a parcel within which a free standing or ground mounted solar energy system is installed.

SOLAR ACCESS - Space open to the sun and clear of overhangs or shade including the orientation of streets and lots to the sun so as to permit the use of active and/or passive solar energy systems on individual properties.

SOLAR COLLECTOR - A solar photovoltaic cell, panel, or array, or solar hot air or water collector device, which relies upon solar radiation as an energy source for the generation of electricity or transfer of stored heat.

SOLAR EASEMENT - An easement recorded pursuant to NY Real Property Law §335- b, the purpose of which is to secure the right to receive sunlight across real property of another for continued access to sunlight necessary to operate a solar collector.

SOLAR ENERGY EQUIPMENT/SYSTEM - Solar collectors, controls, energy storage devices, heat pumps, heat exchangers, and other materials, hardware or equipment necessary to the process by which solar radiation is collected, converted into another form of energy, stored, protected from unnecessary dissipation and distributed. Solar systems include solar thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated solar.

SOLAR ARRAY – A group of multiple solar modules with purpose of harvesting solar energy.

SOLAR PANEL - A device for the direct conversion of solar energy into electricity.

SOLAR STORAGE BATTERY - A device that stores energy from the sun and makes it available in an electrical form.

C.              Applicability.

The requirements of this local law shall apply to all solar energy system and equipment installations modified or installed after the effective date of this local law.

Solar energy system installations for which a valid building permit has been issued or, if no building permit is presently required, for which installation has commenced before the effective date of this local law shall not be required to meet the requirements of this local law.

All solar energy systems shall be designed, erected and installed in accordance with all applicable codes, regulations and industry standards as referenced in the State Building Code and the Town Code.

Solar collectors, unless part of a Major Solar Collector System or Solar Farm, shall be permitted only to provide power for use by owners, lessees, tenants, residents, or other occupants of the premises on which they are erected, but nothing contained in this provision shall be construed to prohibit “collective solar” installations or the sale of excess power through  a “net billing” or “net-metering” arrangement in accordance with New York Public Service Law §66-j or similar state or federal statute.

Nothing contained within this section shall preclude the Town from operating or leasing any solar energy system on Town-owned properties or assets, subject to the 4 provisions contained within this section.

D.              Minor Solar Collection Systems.

Rooftop and Building-Mounted Minor Solar Collector Systems: Rooftop and building mounted solar collectors are permitted in all zoning districts in the Town subject to the following conditions:

Building permits shall be required for installation of all rooftop and building-mounted solar collectors.

Rooftop and Building-Mounted Solar Collectors shall not exceed the maximum allowed height of the principal use in any zoning district.

With the exception of solar panels, all equipment associated with roof mounted collector systems, including but not limited to controls, energy storage devices, heat pumps, exchangers, or other materials, hardware or equipment necessary for the process by which solar radiation is converted into another form of energy shall be screened from street view and shall not be located within the front yard.

Building-Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) Systems: BIPV systems are permitted in all zoning districts and shall be shown on the plans submitted for the building permit application for the building containing the system.

Free Standing and Ground Mounted Minor Solar Collector Systems: Free standing or ground mounted minor solar collector systems are permitted as accessory structures in all zoning districts of the Town, subject to the following requirements:

The ground mounted and freestanding minor solar collector systems shall meet the accessory building setback and location requirements per   Section 17.40.020 (C).

Building permits are required for the installation of all ground-mounted and free standing minor solar collector systems.

The height of the ground mounted and freestanding solar collector systems and any mounts shall not exceed sixteen (16) feet in any zone, when oriented at maximum tilt.

The total surface area of all minor solar collector systems on the lot shall not exceed 3,000 square feet and, when combined with all other buildings and structures, including accessory structure, on the lot, shall not exceed the maximum lot coverage per Section 17.16.020 of the zone in which they are located.

Ground mounted and freestanding minor solar collector systems and other facilities shall be surfaced, designed and sited so as not to reflect glare onto adjacent properties and roadways.

Ground mounted and freestanding minor solar collector systems shall be screened when possible and practicable from adjoining lots and street rights of way through the use of architectural features, earth berms, landscaping, fencing or other screening which will harmonize with the character of the property and surrounding area. Any transition yard, buffer yard, landscaping, and barrier requirements per Section 17.36.200 shall be adhered to when applicable. The proposed screening shall not interfere with normal operation of the solar collectors.

The area of the ground mounted and freestanding solar collectors and/or equipment pads shall be included in calculating whether the lot meets maximum permitted impervious coverage requirements as defined in Section

17.16.020 for the applicable Zoning District.

The installation of ground mounted and freestanding minor solar collectors on any non-residential use shall be considered a development and shall comply with the site plan approval process and applicable sections of Chapter 17 of the Big Flats Municipal Code.

E.              Major Solar Collection Systems or Solar Farms.

Major Solar Collection Systems and Solar Farms shall be permitted under site plan approval and upon grant of a special permit by the Town Board in the RU, BN2, BNR, BR, I, ABD, and C Districts, subject to the following supplementary regulations:

Height and setback restrictions:

The maximum height for freestanding solar panels located on the ground or attached to a framework located on the ground shall no exceed sixteen (16) feet in height above ground at maximum tilt angle.

The minimum setback from front, side and rear property lines shall be fifty

(50) feet unless the setback requirement of the underlining zoning district for general or business use is greater than that setback distance shall apply. Any transition yard, buffer yard, landscaping, and barrier requirements per Section 17.36.200 shall be adhered to when applicable.

Design restrictions:

Major Solar Collection Systems and Solar Farms shall be enclosed by a chain link perimeter fence to restrict unauthorized access at a minimum height of 7 feet.

A sign not to exceed sixteen (16) square feet shall be displayed or near the main access point and shall list the facility name, owner and phone number for emergency personnel purposes.

Ground mounted and freestanding solar collector systems shall be screened from adjoining lots and street rights of way through the use of architectural features, earth berms, landscaping, fencing or other screening which will harmonize with the character of the property and surrounding area. Any transition yard, buffer yard, landscaping, and barrier requirements per Section 17.36.200 shall be adhered to when applicable. The proposed screening shall not interfere with normal operation of the solar collectors.

All panels and equipment shall be surfaced, designed and sited so as not to reflect glare onto adjacent properties and roadways.

On-site power lines shall, to the maximum extent practicable, be placed underground.

Removal of trees and other existing vegetation should be minimized to the best extent possible.

Driveways and access roads within the lot shall be a gravel or crushed stone surface and shall be designed to minimize the extent of roadways constructed, disturbance and soil compaction.

The following requirements shall be met for decommissioning:

Solar farms and solar power plants which have not been in active and continuous service for a period of 6 months shall be removed at the owners or operators expense. Town may request from the owner or operator proof of service if it appears the site appears to be inactive or out of service.

The site shall be restored to as natural a condition as possible within three (3) months of the removal. Failure to do so will result in the loss of the applicable performance bond and payment. A time extension may be requested by the owner in the event that weather or other circumstances prevent the site from being restored within the   three

(3) month time period.

A valid performance and payment bond assigned to the Town of Big Flats for Major Solar Collection System. The applicant must provide an estimated cost of decommissioning and the salvage value of all equipment to establish the amount. The performance guarantee may be of the following types:

A surety or performance bond that renews automatically. A bond certificate must be submitted to the Town each year verifying the bond has been properly renewed.

A no-contents irrevocable bank letter of credit from a banking corporation licensed to do business in New York State.

The full amount of the bond or letter of credit must remain in full force and effect until the major solar collection system is decommissioned and any necessary site restoration is completed.

All applications for a solar farm shall be accompanied by a Decommissioning Plan to be implemented upon abandonment and/or in conjunction with removal of the facility. If the applicant begins but does not complete construction of the project within eighteen (18) months after receiving final site plan approval, this may be deemed abandonment of the project and require implementation of the decommissioning plan to the extent applicable.

Any change of ownership and/or operation shall require a new application and new bond. The Town must be notified of any change of ownership within 30 days of such change. If this does not occur the Town Board may exercise full authority to utilize the bond or letter of credit and decommission the site.

F.               Safety.

All solar collector installations must be performed by a qualified solar installer. Documentation of being a qualified solar installer must be provided as part of the Building Permit application.

Prior to operation, electrical connections must be inspected by a Town approved 3rd Party electrical inspection person or agency. Any connection to the public utility grid must be inspected by the appropriate public utility.

Solar energy systems shall be maintained in good working order. Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, mowing, painting, structural repairs, and integrity of security measures. Site access shall be maintained to a level acceptable to the code enforcement officer and emergency personnel. The owner or operator shall be

responsible for the cost of maintaining the solar farm and any access road(s), unless accepted asa public right of way.

Rooftop and building-mounted solar collectors shall meet all applicable state fire and building code standards.

Upon request, the owner or operator shall cooperate with local emergency services in developing an emergency response plan. All means of shutting down the solar farm facility shall be clearly marked. The owner or operator shall identify a responsible person for public inquiries throughout the life of the installation.

If solar storage batteries are included as part of the solar collector system, they must be placed in a secure container or enclosure meeting the requirements of all applicable building code standards when in use and when no longer used shall be disposed of in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Town and other applicable laws and regulations.

All installations must adhere to the provisions of all applicable state fire and building codes, and any other applicable local, state and federal codes and/or standards.

Where this section differs or conflicts with other laws, rules and regulations, unless the right to do so is preempted or prohibited by the County, State of Federal government, the more restrictive or protective of the Town and the public safety shall apply.