[Added 10-4-2016 by Doc. 82]
The purpose of this article is to regulate and restrict the creation of new solar energy systems, including large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations and roof-mounted installations, by providing standards for the placement, design, construction, operation, monitoring, modification and removal of such installations that address public safety, minimize impacts on environmental, scenic, natural and historic resources and to provide adequate financial assurance for the eventual decommissioning of such installations,
- LARGE-SCALE GROUND-MOUNTED SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC INSTALLATION
- A solar energy system that is structurally mounted on the ground and is not roof mounted, and has a minimum nameplate capacity greater than 250 kW and occupies more than three acres of land.
- RATED NAMEPLATE CAPACITY
- The maximum rated output of electric power production of the electric system in alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).
- ROOF-MOUNTED INSTALLATION
- A solar energy system mounted on the roof of an existing or new building.
- SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A device or structural design feature, a substantial purpose of which is to provide daylight for interior lighting or provide for the collection, storage and distribution of solar energy for space heating or cooling, electricity generating, or water heating, as set forth in MGL c. 40A, §§ 1A and 9B, including large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations and roof-mounted installations.
This section applies to large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations greater than 250 kW that occupy not less than three acres of land and roof-mounted installations.
Large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations are allowed only in residential districts. Such installations require a special permit from the City Council (SPGA) and site plan approval. Ground-mounted solar installations, regardless of size, shall not be allowed in any commercial, industrial or waterfront zoning district.
Roof-mounted installations are allowed in commercial and industrial districts. Such installations require site plan approval.
Municipal facilities owned, operated by, or developed for and on behalf of the City are allowed as-of-right without site plan review in any district, but must meet the other requirements of this article.
Smaller scale building-mounted solar energy systems which are an accessory to an existing residential use do not need to comply with this article, but require a building permit and must comply with the other provisions of this bylaw as may be applicable.
The following requirements shall apply to all such solar energy systems.
Compliance with laws, ordinances and regulations. The construction and operation of all large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations shall be consistent with all applicable local, state and federal requirements, including but not limited to all applicable safety, construction, electrical, and communications requirements. All buildings and fixtures forming part of a solar installation shall be constructed in accordance with the State Building Code.
Building permit and building inspection. No large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation shall be constructed, installed or modified as provided in this article without first obtaining a building permit.
Fees. The application for a building permit for a large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation must be accompanied by the fee required for a building permit and special permit and the fee as required for site plan approval.
Large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations shall meet the requirements of this article. All plans and maps shall be prepared, stamped and signed by a professional engineer licensed to practice in Massachusetts. The project applicant shall provide the following documents in addition to or in coordination with those required for site plan review.
Site plan. The site plan must include the following:
Property lines and physical features, including roads and topography, for the project site;
Proposed changes to the landscape of the site, grading, vegetation clearing and planting, exterior lighting, screening vegetation or structures, including their height;
Locations of wetlands, priority habitat areas defined by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP);
Locations of floodplains or inundation areas for moderate or high hazard dams;
Locations of priority heritage landscapes and local or national historic districts;
A list of any hazardous materials proposed to be located on the site in excess of household quantities and a plan to prevent their release to the environment as appropriate;
Blueprints or drawings of the solar installation signed by a professional engineer licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts showing the proposed layout of the system and any potential shading from nearby structures;
One- or three-line electrical diagram detailing the solar installation, associated components, and electrical interconnection methods, with all National Electrical Code compliant disconnects and overcurrent devices;
Documentation of the major system components to be used, including the electric generating components, transmission systems, mounting system, inverter, etc.;
Name, address, and contact information for proposed system installer;
Name, address, phone number and signature of the project applicant, as well as all co-applicants or property owners, if any;
The name, contact information and signature of any agents representing the project applicant;
Fire protection measures;
Storm drainage, including means of ultimate disposal and calculations;
Existing trees 10 inches in caliper or better and existing tree/shrub masses; proposed planting, landscaping, and screening. Every abutting property shall be visually screened from the project through any one or combination of the following: location, distance, plantings, existing vegetation and fencing. Said screening is not required to exceed six feet in height, and the applicant shall demonstrate that the proposal provides visual screening;
Certified list of abutters.
Site control. The project applicant shall submit documentation of actual or prospective access and control of the project site sufficient to allow for construction and operation of the proposed solar installation.
Operation and maintenance plan. The project applicant shall submit a plan for the operation and maintenance of the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation, which shall include measures for maintaining safe access to the installation, stormwater management consistent with City's and DEP's stormwater regulations and vegetation controls, as well as general procedures for operational maintenance of the installation.
Zoning: Zoning district designation for the parcel(s) of land comprising the project site [submission of a copy of a zoning map with the parcel(s) identified is suitable for this purpose].
Insurance. The project applicant shall provide proof of liability insurance.
Financial surety. Applicants of large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation projects shall provide a form of surety, either through escrow account, bond or otherwise, to cover the cost of removal in the event the City must remove the installation and remediate the landscape, in an amount and form determined to be reasonable by the Planning Director, but in no event to exceed more than 125% of the cost of removal and compliance with the additional requirements set forth herein, as determined by the project applicant and the City. Such surety will not be required for municipal facilities. The project applicant shall submit a fully inclusive estimate of the costs associated with removal, prepared by a qualified engineer. The amount shall include a mechanism for calculating increased removal costs due to inflation.
Utility notification. No large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation shall be constructed until evidence has been given to the Planning Director that the utility company that operates the electrical grid where the installation is to be located has been informed of the solar installation owner or operator's intent to install an interconnected customer-owned generator. Off-grid systems shall be exempt from this requirement.
Setbacks. For large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations, front, side and rear setbacks shall be as follows.
Front yard. The front yard depth shall be at least 100 feet.
Side yard. Each side yard shall have a depth of at least 75 feet; provided, however, that where the lot abuts a residential district, the side yard shall not be less than 100 feet.
Rear yard. The rear yard depth shall not be less than 75 feet; provided, however, that where the lot abuts a residential district, the rear yard shall not be less than 100 feet.
Appurtenant structures. All appurtenant structures to large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations shall be subject to reasonable conditions concerning the bulk and height of structures, lot area, parking and building coverage requirements. All such appurtenant structures, including, but not limited to, equipment shelters, storage facilities, transformers, and substations, shall be architecturally compatible with each other. Whenever reasonable, structures should be screened from view by vegetation and/or joined or clustered to avoid adverse visual impacts.
Lighting. Lighting of large-scale ground-mounted solar installations shall be consistent with local, state and federal law. Lighting of other parts of the installation, such as appurtenant structures, shall be limited to that required for safety and operational purposes, and shall be shielded from abutting properties. Lighting of the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations shall be directed downward and shall incorporate full cutoff fixtures to reduce light pollution.
Signage. Signs on large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations shall comply with this Zoning Ordinance. A sign shall be required to identify the owner and provide a twenty-four-hour emergency contact phone number. Large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations shall not be used for displaying any advertising except for reasonable identification of the manufacturer or operator of the solar installation.
Utility connections. Electrical transformers or other utility interconnections shall be constructed as required by the utility provider and may be aboveground only if necessary. Reasonable efforts shall be made to place all utility connections from the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation underground (if feasible), depending on appropriate soil conditions, shape, and topography of the site and any requirements of the utility provider.
Roads. Access roads shall be constructed to minimize grading, removal of stone walls or street trees and minimize impacts to environmental or historic resources.
Control of vegetation. Herbicides may not be used to control vegetation at the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation. Mowing or the use of pervious pavers or geotextile materials underneath the solar array is a possible alternative.
Hazardous materials. Hazardous materials stored, used, or generated on site shall not exceed the amount for a very small quantity generator of hazardous waste as defined by the DEP pursuant to Mass DEP regulations, 310 CMR 30.000, and shall meet all requirements of the DEP, including storage of hazardous materials in a building with an impervious floor that is not adjacent to any floor drains to prevent discharge to the outdoor environment. If hazardous materials are utilized within the solar equipment then impervious containment areas capable of controlling any release to the environment and to prevent potential contamination of groundwater are required.
Emergency services. The large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation owner or operator shall provide a copy of the project summary, electrical schematic, and site plan to the Fire Chief, DPW, and Emergency Management Director. Upon request, the owner or operator shall cooperate with local emergency services in developing an emergency response plan, including the training of any municipal first responders. All means of shutting down the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation shall be clearly marked. The owner or operator shall identify a responsible person for public inquiries throughout the life of the installation.
Land clearing, soil erosion and habitat impacts. Clearing of natural vegetation shall be limited to what is necessary for the construction, operation and maintenance of the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation or otherwise prescribed by applicable laws, regulations, and ordinances.
Solar installation conditions. The large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation owner or operator shall maintain the facility in good condition. Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, painting, structural repairs, and integrity of security measures. Site access shall be maintained to a level acceptable to the local Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director. The owner or operator shall be responsible for the cost of maintaining the solar installation and any access road(s).
Modifications. All material modifications to a large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation made after issuance of the required building permit shall require approval by the SPGA.
Annual reporting. The owner or operator of the installation shall submit an annual report demonstrating and certifying compliance with the operation and maintenance plan required herein and the requirements of this article and their approved site plan, including control of vegetation, noise standards, and adequacy of road access. The annual report shall also provide information on the maintenance completed during the course of the year and the amount of electricity generated by the facility. The report shall be submitted to the Board of Selectmen, Planning Director, Fire Chief, Emergency Management Director, Building Commissioner, Board of Health and Conservation Commission (if a wetlands permit was issued) no later than 45 days after the end of the calendar year.
Removal requirements. Any large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation which has reached the end of its useful life or has been abandoned (See Subsection B, below.) shall be removed. The owner or operator shall physically remove the installation no more than 180 days after the date of discontinued operations. The owner or operator shall notify the Planning Director by certified mail of the proposed date of discontinued operations and plans for removal. Decommissioning shall consist of:
Physical removal of all large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations, structures, equipment, security barriers and transmission lines from the site;
Disposal of all solid and hazardous waste in accordance with local, state, and federal waste disposal regulations; and
Stabilization or revegetation of the site as necessary to minimize erosion. The Site Plan Review Authority may allow the owner or operator to leave landscaping or designated below-grade foundations in order to minimize erosion and disruption to vegetation.
Abandonment. Absent notice of a proposed date of decommissioning or written notice of extenuating circumstances, the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation shall be considered abandoned when it fails to operate for more than one year without the written consent of the Planning Director. If the owner or operator of the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation fails to remove the installation in accordance with the requirements of this section within 180 days of abandonment or the proposed date of decommissioning, the City may enter the property and physically remove the installation at the owner's expense.
Financial surety. Applicants shall submit documentation of financial surety that satisfies this article.
In addition to any other criteria set forth in this chapter for the grant of a special permit, the SPGA shall consider whether the grant of a special permit for a large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation will promote the highest and best use of the subject property, taking into account the characteristics of the subject property, including past land uses, possible presence of hazardous materials, and other development limitations.
The site plan approval for a roof-mounted installation may impose reasonable conditions consistent with the applicable standards set forth herein for the large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations.