Renewable-Energy System Ordinances Enacted

One of Ronald Reagan’s famous quotes about the philosophy of government bureaucracy was, “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.”

In recent years, thousands of communities have initiated successful efforts designed to promote the use of renewable-energy sources, especially solar and wind, for residential, governmental, commercial and industrial structures.

Subsequently, many communities have followed up with ordinances designed to regulate the installation of these sources, and the trend is growing.

One example is the City of Maplewood, Minn., which passed an ordinance on renewable-energy sources in 2011. The city’s ordinance addresses wind, solar and geothermal power and covers the types of equipment that can be installed, the placement and design, general standards, and issues related to abandonment.

A number of communities in New York, including the Town of Dickinson, the City of Kingston, the Village of Nyack, the Village of Quogue, and the Town of Southold, now have renewable-energy ordinances.

In early 2015, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission published “Renewable Energy Ordinance Framework,” guidelines for communities that want to implement solar-structure ordinances, including recommended setbacks, heights, design and installation.

In May 2015, the Morris, Ill., city council passed an ordinance to regulate the installation of solar-energy devices and small wind-energy systems. Those interested in installing these will now need to apply to the city’s building and zoning office.

“Ground-mounted solar panels can create glare issues, and old windmills can be a noise issue,” said Mike Hoffman, the city’s planner. 

He added that residential customers will also have to consider the proximity of proposed installations to other homes. The ordinance also restricts solar panels from facing public streets.

“The hope is to keep everything cohesive and prevent installation from being unsightly,” said Bill Cheshareck, the city’s building and zoning officer.

In sum, before an electrical contractor accepts installs a renewable-energy source for a customer, it is important to determine if there are any local ordinances covering these installations.

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