[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Clarkstown 8-11-2015 by L.L. No. 5-2015. Amendments noted where applicable.]
A new Clarkstown Town Code chapter entitled "Solar Power Regulation" is created.
This chapter aims to promote the accommodation of solar energy systems and equipment.
Solar energy is a renewable and nonpolluting energy resource that can offset fossil fuel emissions and reduce demand on the grid. Energy generated from solar energy systems can be used to offset energy demand on the grid where excess solar power is generated.
The use of solar energy equipment for the purpose of providing electricity and energy for heating and/or cooling is a priority and is a necessary component of the Town of Clarkstown's current and long-term sustainability as listed in the goals of the Town's Comprehensive Plan.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ACCESSORY BUILDING
- A building, such as a stable, garage, playhouse, barn, tent or greenhouse, which is subordinate and accessory to a principal building on the same lot.
- BUILDING-INTEGRATED PHOTOVOLTAIC (BIPV) SYSTEMS
- A solar energy system that consists of integrating photovoltaic modules into the exterior skin of the structure, such as the roof or the facade and which does not alter the general configuration of the roof.
- FLUSH-MOUNTED SOLAR PANEL
- Photovoltaic modules and tiles that are installed parallel to the surface of a roof on low-profile mounting brackets.
- FREESTANDING OR GROUND-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A solar energy system that is directly installed in or on the ground and is not attached or affixed to an existing structure.
- A continuous source of brightness, relative to diffused lighting. This is not a direct reflection of the sun, but rather a reflection of the bright sky around the sun. Glare is significantly less intense than glint.
- Also known as a "specular reflection," produced as a direct reflection of the sun on the surface of the PV solar panel. This is the potential source of the visual issues regarding viewer distraction.
- 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.
- PRIMARY USE
- The main purpose for which a site is developed and occupied, including the activities that are conducted on the site a majority of the hours during which activities occur.
- PRINCIPAL BUILDING
- A building in which is conducted the primary use of the lot on which it is located.
- QUALIFIED SOLAR CONTRACTOR/INSTALLER
- A firm that employs or subcontracts a qualified person (installer) to supervise the installation. The installer shall have the skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of solar electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training on the hazards involved. Contractors 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 of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), Underwriters Laboratory (UL), or Journeymen Wiremen who have completed the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers/National Electrical Contractors Association (IBEW/NECA) joint apprenticeship program shall be deemed to be qualified solar installers for the purposes of this definition. Persons who are not on NYSERDA's list or do not hold these credentials may be deemed to be qualified solar installers if the Building Inspector determines such persons have had adequate training to determine the degree and extent of the hazard and the personal protective equipment and job planning necessary to perform the installation safely.
- ROOFTOP-MOUNTED SOLAR SYSTEM
- A solar power system in which solar modules 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.
- SOLAR COLLECTOR
- A solar hot air or water collector device, which relies upon solar radiation as an energy source for the generation of or transfer of stored heat.
- SOLAR ENERGY EQUIPMENT/SYSTEM
- Solar collectors, modules, inverters, charge controllers, 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 MODULE
- A solar photovoltaic cell, panel, or array, which relies upon sunlight as an energy source for the generation of electricity.
- SOLAR POWER FAST-TRACK PROGRAM
- A program to expedite qualified applications for commercial and residential solar panel installation to encourage the use of reliable and clean renewable energy.
- SOLAR-THERMAL SYSTEMS
- Solar-thermal systems directly heat water or other liquid using the heat of the sun. The heated liquid is used for such purposes as space heating and cooling, domestic hot water, and heating pool water.
The requirements of this chapter shall apply to all solar energy systems (residential, commercial, multifamily and condominium) modified or installed after the effective date of this chapter.
Solar energy equipment/systems for which a valid building permit has been properly issued prior to the effective date of this chapter shall not be required to meet the requirements of this chapter.
All solar energy systems shall be designed, erected and installed in accordance with all applicable codes, regulations and standards.
Solar energy collectors 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.
General design considerations.
Solar collectors shall be located such that any solar glint or glare is not directed onto nearby properties or roadways. To limit solar glint or glare, the face of the collectors can be configured as to not face a public way or neighboring property. Solar collectors must be made of a nonreflective surface. If the solar PV installation creates an adverse impact to the public or neighboring properties, the property owner will be required to take measures to mitigate the impact.
A solar PV system shall not be used to display any advertising or signage, including, but not limited to, streamers, pennants, spinners, flags, reflectors, ribbons, balloons, banners, or other similar materials.
All solar PV systems shall be installed using an engineered mounting structure.
All solar PV system wiring shall be neatly grouped, routed and continuously supported.
Where feasible, solar collector units shall be consolidated into array groupings, rather than situated in a disjointed manner.
Specific design considerations.
Allowed structures. A solar PV system shall be allowed on the roof of the principal building of the property. No part of the solar PV system may extend beyond the exterior perimeter of the principal building. Solar PV systems shall not be mounted on the roof of any accessory building unless such structure lies within the building envelope for the zone in which it is located.
Flat roof. Any part of the solar PV system shall not exceed nine feet in overall height, or extend more than five feet above the building parapet, whichever results in less height.
Pitched roof. Solar PV collectors must be mounted flush with the roof, and the surface of the collector shall not extend any further than 18 inches from the roof surface at any point. No portion of the solar collectors shall extend more than eight inches beyond the ridgeline of the roof at any point.
Solar PV systems shall be designed and configured to blend into the architecture of the building to the greatest extent possible, and shall be screened from the view of the public right-of-way.
Solar collector units shall be consolidated to one area on the roof to the greatest extent possible, and shall not be scattered in multiple groups on the roof. In any zoning district, if the principal building is located within a required setback, then the solar PV system may be located within that same setback.
Building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems.
Residential districts: R-10, R-15, R-22, R-40, R-80, R-160, MF-1, MF-2, MF-3, RG-1 & RG-2.
Solar PV systems shall only be mounted to the principal building, and shall not be mounted to any facade facing the front of the property.
Systems may be mounted to the sides of structures, such that no part of the system projects more than 18 inches from the structure or into the side or rear setback of the property.
All other districts.
Non-roof-mounted solar PV systems may be mounted to the front, sides, or rear of structures. The maximum distance that a system is allowed to project from a structure is three feet.
Solar PV systems may be mounted to or configured as awnings. A system mounted to the flat surface of an awning must not project horizontally or vertically beyond the limits of the awning.
Ground-mounted and freestanding systems.
No solar energy system or device shall be installed or operated in the Town of Clarkstown except in compliance with this chapter.
To the extent practicable, and in accordance with all applicable laws, the accommodation of solar energy systems and equipment and the protection of access to sunlight for such equipment shall be encouraged in the application of the various review and approval provisions of the Town of Clarkstown Code.
Rooftop solar collectors. Rooftop-mounted solar collectors are permitted in all zoning districts in the Town of Clarkstown, subject to the submission, review and issuance of a permit by the Building Inspector.
Building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems. BIPV systems are permitted in all zoning districts in the Town of Clarkstown, subject to the submission, review and issuance of a permit by the Building Inspector.
Ground-mounted and freestanding solar collectors. Ground-mounted and freestanding solar collectors are allowed in all zoning districts of the Town of Clarkstown, provided that they meet all applicable setback requirements for the zoning district in which it is located and, when oriented at maximum tilt, the height does not exceed 20 feet for nonresidential installations or 10 feet for residential installations. Permits for ground-mounted and freestanding solar collectors shall be issued as follows:
[Amended 6-28-2016 by L.L. No. 8-2016; 12-13-2018 by L.L. No. 9-2018]
Residential installations less than 12 kw and 1/4 acre land disturbance are issued pursuant to Building Department and Department of Engineering and Facilities Management review and approval.
Residential installations greater than 12 kw total cumulative capacity or 1/4 acre land disturbance are issued pursuant to Planning Board, Architectural Historic Review Board, Building Department and Department of Engineering and Facilities Management review and approval.
Nonresidential installations less than 25 kw are issued pursuant to Building Department and Department of Engineering and Facilities Management review and approval.
Nonresidential installations greater than 25 kw total cumulative capacity and greater than 1/4 acre land disturbance are issued pursuant to Planning Board, Architectural Historic Review Board, Building Department and Department of Engineering and Facilities Management review and approval.
Solar-thermal systems. Solar-thermal systems are permitted in all zoning districts, subject to the issuance of a building permit.
Installations in designated historic districts or sites shall require the approval of the Architectural Historic Review Board unless such installations are not visible from the street or any historic site.
[Amended 6-28-2016 by L.L. No. 8-2016]
All solar collector and module installations must be performed by a qualified solar installer/contractor.
Prior to operation, electrical connections must be inspected by an approved electrical inspection agency as determined by the Town.
The installer/contractor shall coordinate interconnection with the public utility grid and comply with all of its requirements and standards.
Solar energy systems shall be maintained in good working order.
All solar collector and module installation shall meet New York's Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code standards.
If 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 the New York State Building Code when in use and when no longer used shall be disposed of in accordance with the laws and regulations of Town of Clarkstown and other applicable laws and regulations.
If a solar collector ceases to perform its originally intended function for more than 12 consecutive months, the property owner shall make repairs or remove the collector, mount and associated equipment by no later than 90 days after the end of the twelve-month period.
If a building permit for a solar energy device is denied because of lack of compliance or is in conflict with other goals of the Town of Clarkstown, the applicant may seek relief from the Zoning Board of Appeals which shall regard solar energy as a factor to be considered, weighed and balanced along with other factors.
The expedited solar permitting process uses a unified permit across municipalities in New York State. A combined building and electrical permit for a grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) system will be issued pending proper completion of forms, submission of approved plans and approval by the municipality. All applicants must submit:
Three sets of plans that include:
Site plan showing location of major components of solar system and other equipment on roof or legal accessory building. This plan should represent relative location of components at site, including, but not limited to, location of array, existing electrical service location, utility meter, inverter location, system orientation and tilt angle. This plan should show access and pathways that are compliant with the New York State Fire Code, if applicable.
One-line or three-line electrical diagram. The electrical diagram required by NYSERDA for an incentive application and/or utility for an interconnection agreement can be used here.
Specification sheets for all manufactured components. If these sheets are available electronically, a web address will be accepted in place of an attachment, at the discretion of the Building Inspector.
Any person committing an offense against any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a violation punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000 or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment. The continuation of an offense against the provisions of this chapter shall constitute, for each day the offense is continued, a separate and distinct offense hereunder.