[Added 1-23-2013 by Ord. No. 5388]
To promote the use of solar energy systems for the generation of electricity (photovoltaics), or for water heating, or space heating or cooling (solar thermal — passive and active), and to obtain the benefits of solar energy as a renewable and clean energy source which enhances the reliability of the overall electrical power grid, reduces peak power demands, helps diversify Pennsylvania's energy supply portfolio, and helps reduce dependence on fossil fuels;
To provide for the installation and construction of solar energy systems in the City of Easton subject to reasonable conditions that will protect the public health, safety and welfare, and protect the historic character and resources of the City;
To provide protection of a reasonable amount of sunlight from shade from structures and vegetation whenever feasible to all parcels in the City in order to preserve the economic value of solar radiation falling on structures, investments in solar energy systems, and the options for future uses of solar energy;
To promote, protect and facilitate access to incident solar energy, as provided by Section 604 of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. § 10604.
As used in this Part 7, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ADJOINING LOT
- Any lot that shares a common boundary with, or that otherwise touches, the lot on which a solar energy system is installed.
- ARCHITECTURALLY INTEGRATED DEVICE
- A device that is integrated in, as distinguished from merely positioned on, the external surfaces of the shell of buildings or building structures.
- CLEARNESS INDEX (KT)
- A number from zero to one that describes the amount of solar radiation that passes through the atmosphere.
- MAJOR LOSS OF EFFICIENCY
- Twenty-percent loss of efficiency of solar energy system to nonsystem (outward) causes, such as shading of the solar access plane, based on NASA Clearness Index (KT) and NREL, "Typical Meteorological Year," TMY3 data, as well as Tilt and Orientation Factor (TOF) and Total Solar Resource Fraction (TSRF). Reports generated by "Solar Pathfinder™," "Solmetric Suneye™" or other devices that provide functionally equivalent reporting which utilize this data are acceptable.
- NONRESIDENTIAL SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A solar energy system that is an accessory use to lawful nonresidential use in any zoning district and mounted on the principal building on the lot.
- RESIDENTIAL SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A solar energy system that is an accessory use to a lawful residential use in any zoning district and mounted on the principal building on the lot.
- SOLAR ACCESS
- The access of a solar collector to direct sunlight.
- SOLAR ACCESS PLANE
- The area along a property line beginning a minimum of 12 feet above grade and bounded by the projections from the area of solar energy device perpendicular to the sun's rays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on December 21.
- SOLAR COLLECTOR
- A solar photovoltaic cell, panel or array, or solar hot air or water collector device, that relies upon solar radiation as an energy source for the generation of electricity or transfer of stored heat.
- SOLAR ENERGY
- Radiant energy (direct, diffuse, and reflected) received from the sun at wavelengths suitable for conversion into thermal, chemical or electrical energy.
- SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM or SES
- Any device or combination of devices or elements which converts solar energy to usable thermal, mechanical, chemical or electrical energy to meet all or part of a structure's energy requirements, including but not limited to any substance or device which collects sunlight for use in the heating or cooling of a structure or building, the heating or pumping of water, or the generation of electricity. A solar energy system may be used for purposes in addition to the collection of solar energy. These uses include, but are not limited to, serving as a structural member of part of the roof of a building or structure and serving as a window or wall. A solar energy system shall not be the primary use of the property.
- TILT AND ORIENTATION FACTOR or TOF
- The solar insolation at the actual tilt and orientation divided by the insolation at the optimal fixed tilt and orientation, expressed in percent. Note that for one-axis and two-axis tracking, TOF may be greater than 100%, since insolation may be more than with the fixed panel.
- TOTAL SOLAR RESOURCE FRACTION or TSRF
- The ratio of insolation available accounting for both shading and the specific tilt and orientation of the surface, divided by the total insolation available assuming no shade and assuming the surface is at the optimal tilt and orientation. TRSF is expressed in percent, according to the following equation: TSRF = Solar Access x TOF. Note that with one-axis and two-axis tracking, TSRF may be greater than 100% because it is compared to a fixed panel.
This Part 7 applies to:
Solar energy systems to be installed and constructed after the effective date of this Part 7;
All applications for solar energy systems on existing structures or property; and
Any upgrades, modifications or changes that materially alter the size or placement of a solar energy system existing at the time of adoption of this Part 7.
Solar energy systems constructed prior to the effective date of this Part 7 shall not be required to meet the requirements of this Part 7; provided that any upgrade, modification or change to an existing solar energy system that materially alters the size or placement of the existing solar energy system shall comply with the provisions of this chapter.
Use of solar energy systems as an accessory use:
A building-mounted residential solar energy system is allowed as a permitted accessory use to any lawful residential use in any zoning district in the City if mounted on the principal building and the energy generated is used for one or more of the principal uses on the same lot, subject to requirements of this Part 7.
A building-mounted nonresidential solar energy system is allowed as a permitted accessory use to any lawful nonresidential use in any zoning district in the City, if mounted on the principal building and the energy generated is used for one or more of the principal uses on the same lot, subject to the requirements of this Part 7.
Use of solar energy systems is subject to the restraints imposed by the present development pattern and topography found inside the City limits of Easton, plus zoning and height restrictions. Where a strict provision of the Zoning Ordinance may prohibit adequate solar access without major loss of efficiency, the developer may apply to the City of Easton Zoning Hearing Board for a variance. In addition to other relevant factors, the Zoning Hearing Board shall weigh the following factors in its evaluation:
Different levels of solar access.
Restrictiveness of the ordinance with regard to height, bulk, setback, and related provisions.
Local energy costs, topography, and aesthetics of the specific area or land tract proposed for solar access use.
Characteristics of shading due to building and trees in determination of necessary solar access plane.
Identification of possible conflicts with solar access, including architectural or historic preservation requirements, steep slopes, low- and moderate-income housing restrictions, and individual landowner preferences.
To the extent applicable, the solar energy system shall comply with the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, Act 45 of 1999, as amended, and the regulations adopted by the Department of Labor and Industry.
The design of the solar energy system shall conform to applicable industry standards. To the extent reasonably possible, the design shall use materials, colors, textures, screening and landscaping that will blend the system into existing structures and environment.
Low-slope roof. On low-slope roof structures (i.e., roof structures not exceeding twenty-five-percent slope), solar devices shall be mounted with adequate setback so as to not be visible from any public way at ground level. Where this is not possible, solar devices shall be located so as not to be visible from the front of the building or from major approaches at ground level.
Steep-slope roof. On steep-slope roof structures (i.e., roof structures exceeding twenty-five-percent slope), solar devices shall not be visible from the street, unless the device is an architecturally integrated device. If the device must be visible (no other alternative is feasible without major loss of efficiency of the system), the design of the solar system shall be evaluated and approved by the authority having jurisdiction, including, where applicable, the Historic District Commission, prior to installation. Flush mount of solar panels on sloped roofs shall be utilized where possible.
All installers of solar energy systems shall be on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's list of registered installers for the DEP Solar Sunshine program or shall establish to the satisfaction of the Code Official that they meet the certification standards of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
In all cases, solar energy systems shall be set back from roof edges and from the roof ridgeline a minimum of three feet to provide safe access for firefighters and other emergency responders.
Upon issuance of a zoning permit for a solar energy system, the Zoning Administrator shall provide written notice of the issuance of such permit by first-class mail to the owner of record of each adjoining lot, together with a copy of this section of the Zoning Code.
When a solar energy system is installed on a lot, new accessory structures or vegetation established thereafter on an adjoining lot shall not be located in a manner that blocks the solar collector access to solar energy, or the solar access plane, so as to cause a major loss of efficiency. The portion of a solar collector that is protected is the portion which is located so as not to be shaded between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on December 21 by a hypothetical minimum twelve-foot-high obstruction located on the lot line.
Subsection B of this section shall not apply to structures or vegetation existing on an adjoining lot at the time of installation of the solar energy collection system, or the effective date of this Part 7, whichever is later. It shall apply to the erection of any accessory structure and to the planting of new vegetation and its subsequent growth on adjoining lots after the installation of the solar energy system.
Installation of a solar energy system does not guarantee the creation of a permanent easement for solar access. However, existing solar energy systems and solar access requirements shall be considered by the Planning Commission when reviewing applications for land development or subdivision.
If the owner of any solar energy system claims that the erection of an accessory structure or planting of any vegetation is causing a major loss of efficiency, it shall be the burden of the owner of the system to establish all facts necessary to support the claim, including, but not limited to, the actual power output of the system prior to the erection of the structure or planting of vegetation, test conditions, comparable illumination levels, and other relevant factors, all of which shall be supported by a certification by a solar energy system installer meeting the qualifications set forth in § 595-274 or a professional engineer.
An application for installation along with application fee.
Drawings indicating location and type of system, along with other technical information as required by the Building Code.
In all applications involving the installation of solar energy systems, the property owner must supply plot plan and photographic documentation as required by the Department of Planning and Codes and must demonstrate adequate solar access during the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on December 21.
Setbacks and height restrictions.
On existing construction, a solar energy system may be installed as long as it meets the requirements of this chapter and all other applicable construction codes.
On new land development or subdivision plans that propose to provide for solar energy systems, the plans shall include a notation that restrictions have been placed on the lots in question concerning the placement of structures and vegetation as they relate to the solar energy systems.
Approvals for new land development or subdivision plans that propose to provide for solar energy systems shall require that an easement for solar access be placed on the deeds of those lots proposed for a solar energy system and all adjoining lots in the approved development or subdivision.
An easement of direct sunlight may be acquired over the land of another by express grant or covenant. Any instrument creating a solar easement may include, but the contents are not limited to, all of the following:
A description of the dimensions of the easement expressed in measurable terms, such as vertical or horizontal angles measured in degrees, or the hours of the day on specified dates during which direct sunlight to a specified surface of a solar collector, device, or structural design feature may not be obstructed, or a combination of these descriptions.
The restrictions placed upon vegetation, structures, and other objects which would impair or obstruct the passage of sunlight through the easement.
The amount, if any, of permissible obstruction of the passage of sunlight through the easement, expressed in measurable terms, such as a specific percentage of sunlight that may be obstructed.
The provisions for trimming vegetation that would impermissibly obstruct the passage of sunlight through the easement including any compensation for trimming expenses.
Any provisions for compensation of the owner of property benefiting from the easement in the event of impermissible obstruction of the easement.
The terms or conditions, if any, under which the easement may be revised or terminated.
Any instrument creating a solar easement shall be recorded in the office of the Recorder of Deeds in and for Northampton County.
Any solar energy system that is not operated for a continuous period of six months shall be considered abandoned, and the owner of such system shall remove the same within 90 days of receipt of notice from the City of Easton notifying the owner of such abandonment. Failure to remove an abandoned system within said 90 days shall be grounds to remove the system at the owner's expense and constitute a code violation, subject to a fine of $300 per day or 90 days' imprisonment. The Zoning Administrator may extend the time for an unused system to remain in place up to six months following notice of abandonment.
The provisions of this Part 7 are severable. If any provision of this Part 7 or its application to any person or circumstance is found to be unconstitutional, illegal or invalid, such unconstitutionality, illegality or invalidity shall not affect or impair other provisions or applications of this Part 7 which can be given effect without the unconstitutional, illegal or invalid provision or application. It is hereby declared as the intent of the City Council that this Part 7 would have been adopted had such unconstitutional, illegal or invalid provision not been included herein.