[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Greenport 6-7-2017 by L.L. No. 3-2017. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Solar energy is a renewable and nonpolluting energy resource that can prevent fossil fuel emissions and reduce a municipality's energy load. Energy generated from solar energy systems can be used to offset energy demand on the grid where excess solar power is generated.
The purpose of this chapter is to promote the accommodation of solar energy systems and equipment and the provision for adequate sunlight and convenience of access necessary therefor, and to balance the potential impact on neighbors when solar energy systems may be installed near their property while preserving the rights of property owners to install solar energy systems without excess regulation. In particular, this legislation is intended to apply to ground-mounted and rooftop-mounted solar energy system installations based upon certain placement. This legislation is not intended to override agricultural exemptions that are currently in place.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- COLLECTIVE SOLAR
- Solar installations owned collectively through subdivision homeowner associations, college student groups, "adopt-a-solar-panel" programs, or other similar arrangements.
- GROUND-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A solar energy system that is anchored to the ground, attached to a pole or other mounting system, and detached from any other structure and which produces energy solely for the purpose of on-site consumption.
- LARGE-SCALE SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A ground- or rooftop-mounted solar energy system that produces energy primarily for the purpose of off-site sale or consumption.
- A billing arrangement that allows solar energy system owners 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) SYSTEM
- 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 energy systems and installations and has received safety training on the hazards involved. Persons who are on the list of eligible 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), shall be deemed to be qualified solar installers for the purposes of this definition. Persons who are not on NYSERDA's list of eligible installers or NABCEP's list of certified installers may be deemed to be qualified solar installers if the Town Code Enforcement Officer/Building Inspector or such other Town officer or employee as the Town Board designates 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. Such training shall include the proper use of special precautionary techniques and personal protective equipment, as well as the skills and techniques necessary to distinguish exposed energized parts from other parts of electrical equipment and to determine the nominal voltage of exposed live parts.
- ROOFTOP-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A solar energy system in which solar collectors/solar panels are mounted on the roof of any legally permitted building either as a flush-mounted system or as modules fixed to frames which can be titled toward the south at an optimal angle.
- The distance measured from a front lot line, side lot line, or rear lot line of a parcel to the outer leading edge of any portion of a ground-mounted solar energy system.
- SMALL-SCALE SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS
- Photovoltaic systems that produce up to 25 kilowatts (kW) of energy or solar thermal systems which serve the building to which they are attached and do not provide energy for any other buildings not located on the same property.
- 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 ENERGY EQUIPMENT
- Electrical energy storage devices, material, hardware, utility interconnection, inverters, or other electrical equipment and conduit of photovoltaic devices associated with the production of electrical energy.
- SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- An electrical generating system composed of a combination of both solar panels/solar collectors and solar energy equipment. Solar energy systems include solar thermal systems, photovoltaic systems, and concentrated solar. For the purposes of this chapter, this definition does not include any solar energy system of four square feet or less.
- SOLAR PANEL
- A photovoltaic device capable of collecting and converting solar energy into electrical energy.
- SOLAR THERMAL SYSTEMS
- Solar energy systems that directly heat water or other liquid using sunlight. The heated liquid is used for such purposes as space heating and cooling, domestic hot water, and heating pool water.
- STATE CODE
- The New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code, as amended.
This chapter applies to all solar energy systems constructed after the effective date of this chapter, excluding general maintenance and repair of existing solar energy systems. This chapter also applies to physical modifications that materially alter the type, configuration, or size of an existing solar energy system or related equipment.
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 code and the Code of the Town of Greenport.
Solar energy systems, unless part of a large-scale solar energy system, shall be permitted to provide power for use only by owners, lessees, tenants, residents, or other occupants of the premises on which they are installed. However, nothing contained herein shall be construed to prohibit collective solar installations or the sale of excess power through a net-metering arrangement in accordance with New York Public Service Law § 66-j or similar state or federal statute.
No small-scale solar energy system shall be installed or operated in the Town except in compliance with this chapter. All small-scale solar energy systems shall be exempt from site plan review.
Rooftop-mounted solar energy systems. Rooftop-mounted solar energy systems that use the electricity solely on site are permitted in the Town when attached to any lawfully permitted building, subject to the following requirements:
Building permits shall be required for installation of all rooftop-mounted solar energy systems.
Rooftop-mounted solar energy systems shall not exceed four feet in height at maximum tilt.
Rooftop-mounted solar energy systems shall be constructed and operated in compliance with the state code.
There must be adequate firesafety and emergency access in accordance with the state code.
Rooftop-mounted solar energy systems shall be surfaced, designed, and sited so as not to reflect glare onto adjacent properties and roadways.
Small-scale ground-mounted solar energy systems. Small-scale ground-mounted solar energy systems that use the electricity solely on site are permitted in the Town, subject to the following requirements:
Building permits shall be required for installation of all ground-mounted solar energy systems.
A lot must have a minimum size of 40,000 square feet in order for a ground-mounted solar energy system to be permitted.
No ground-mounted solar energy systems shall be installed in front yards.
The height of the solar collectors/solar panels and any mounts shall not exceed 20 feet when oriented at maximum tilt.
Ground-mounted solar energy 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 harmonizes with the character of the property and the surrounding area to the extent that the screening does not interfere with normal operation of the solar energy systems.
Solar energy equipment shall be located in a manner to reasonably minimize view blockage for surrounding properties and shading of properties to the north, while still providing adequate solar access for solar collectors/solar panels.
Ground-mounted solar energy systems shall not be sited within any required buffer area.
Ground-mounted solar energy systems shall be constructed and operated in compliance with the state code.
Ground-mounted solar energy systems shall be surfaced, designed, and sited so as not to reflect glare onto adjacent properties and roadways.
Any ground-mounted solar energy system that exceeds the energy production limits for small-scale solar energy systems, regardless of whether energy is used primarily on site or off site, shall be permitted in the Town, subject to the approval standards for large-scale solar energy systems provided in § 103-5 of this chapter.
Large-scale solar energy systems are permitted in the Town, subject to site plan review pursuant to Chapter 101 by the Planning Board and the following supplementary regulations contained in this section:
Large-scale solar energy systems shall be enclosed by perimeter fencing eight feet tall to restrict unauthorized access.
Clearly visible warning signs with the manufacturer's or installer's contact information shall be posted at the entrance and perimeter of the fencing.
The maximum height of solar collectors/solar panels shall not exceed 12 feet at maximum tilt. Any utility poles proposed shall not exceed 30 feet tall.
The solar energy system and accessory structures shall, to the extent reasonably possible, use materials, colors, and textures that will blend the solar energy system with the existing environment.
Appropriate landscaping and/or screening materials may be required to mitigate adverse aesthetic impacts and help screen the solar energy system and accessory structures from roadways and adjacent properties.
Solar energy systems shall be surfaced, designed, and sited so as not to reflect glare onto adjacent properties and roadways.
Reasonable efforts, as determined by the Planning Board, shall be made to place all on-site power lines underground, depending on the appropriate soil conditions, shape, and topography of the site and any requirements of the utility provider. On-site transformers and the utility interconnection equipment shall, to the maximum extent practicable, be placed on the ground and not on utility poles. The location of all proposed equipment, including the proposed utility interconnection, shall be shown on the site plan.
If at the time of the site plan approval the final utility interconnection has not been designed and/or approved by the utility company, the Planning Board may conditionally approve the site plan with the condition that the applicant return for final site plan review once the interconnection has been designed.
The Planning Board may impose conditions on its approval of any site plan under this section in order to enforce the standards referred to in this section or in order to discharge its obligations under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
Site plan application requirements. Any application under this section shall meet any substantive provisions contained in § 101-6 that, in the judgment of the Planning Board, are applicable to the solar energy system being proposed. In addition, an applicant shall submit the following documentation, as applicable, for any large-scale solar energy system:
If the property of the proposed project is to be leased, documentation of legal consent between all parties, specifying the use of the land for the duration of the project, including easements and other agreements;
Blueprints showing the layouts of the solar energy system signed by a professional engineer or registered architect;
Equipment specification sheets for all solar collectors/solar panels and significant components, mounting systems, and inverters that are to be installed;
A property operation and maintenance plan that describes how the solar energy system and property on which it is located will be maintained, including measures for maintaining safe access to the system and a description of how ground cover and screening plantings will be maintained (i.e., mowing and trimming);
Documentation from the area electrical supplier/distribution provider indicating the available capacity of the existing electric infrastructure and the effect the proposed solar energy system will have on this infrastructure, in the area of the proposed project; and
A site plan, showing the following elements, in addition to the elements listed in § 101-6A, as applicable to the project:
The location of proposed and existing overhead and underground utility and transmission lines;
The location of any proposed or existing substation, inverter, transformer or equipment enclosures;
A description of any necessary upgrades or modifications to existing substations or the necessity for a new substation;
A description of how the solar energy system's generated energy will connect to the electrical distribution or transmission system or the intended user's electrical system;
The location and elevations of all transmission lines, support structures, and attachments to the substation(s); and
Proposed changes to the landscape of the site, grading, vegetation clearing and planting, exterior lighting, screening vegetation or structures.
Decommissioning plan. To ensure the proper removal of large-scale solar energy systems, a decommissioning plan that meets the following requirements shall be required for all large-scale solar energy systems:
Compliance with this plan shall be made a condition of site plan approval.
Decommissioning requires removal of the solar energy system, including but not limited to removal of solar collectors/solar panels, solar energy equipment, associated buildings, cabling, electrical components, and any other associated facilities below grade as described in the approved decommissioning plan.
The decommissioning plan must:
Specify that after the large-scale solar energy system has been abandoned or can no longer be used, it shall be removed by the applicant or any subsequent owner;
Describe how the removal of all infrastructure and the remediation of soil and vegetation shall be conducted to return the site to its original state prior to construction. For purposes of this section, "original state" requires seeding of grass at a minimum;
Provide for the removal of all hazardous materials from the property and disposition of hazardous material in accordance with federal and state law;
Describe the anticipated life of the large-scale solar energy system;
Include a cost estimate, which takes into account inflation, prepared by a professional engineer detailing the projected cost of executing the decommissioning plan; and
Include a timeline for execution, not to exceed one year.
Prior to the issuance of a certificate of compliance from the Code Enforcement Officer, the applicant must provide the Town with a performance guarantee as provided below. The amount of the guarantee shall be 1.25 times the estimated decommissioning cost minus the salvageable value or $15,000, whichever is greater.
The following types of performance guarantees are permitted:
A surety or performance bond that renews automatically, includes a minimum sixty-day notice to the Town prior to cancellation, is approved by the Town Attorney, and is from a company on the United States Department of the Treasury's Listing of Certified Companies.
A certified check from the applicant to be deposited by the Town in an interest-bearing account, with all interest accruing to the applicant. The Town shall be permitted to draw from the account in the event that the applicant fails to carry out the decommissioning plan. Funds deposited with the County Finance Director will be returned when the system is decommissioned and any required site restoration is completed.
A no-contest irrevocable letter of credit issued by a banking corporation licensed to do business in the State of New York. The terms of the letter must include the absolute right of the Town to withdraw funds from the bank upon certification by the Code Enforcement Officer/Building Inspector that the terms of the performance guarantee have been breached. The letter of credit must be valid up to 12 months from the date the performance guarantee was approved and shall be continuously renewed or extended until the decommissioning plan is carried out.
The full amount of the surety or bond, certified check, or letter of credit must remain in full force and effect until the large-scale solar energy system is decommissioned and the necessary site restoration is complete.
Modifications. All material modifications to a large-scale solar energy system made after initial site plan approval and the issuance of the required building permit shall require approval by the Planning Board.
Abandonment and decommissioning. Large-scale solar energy systems are considered abandoned after one year without active and continuous electrical generation and shall be decommissioned and removed from the property at the owner's or operator's expense pursuant to the decommissioning plan submitted with the applicant's site plan application. If the large-scale solar energy system is not decommissioned after being considered abandoned, the Town may, in addition to the Town's other available remedies, remove the system, restore the property, and impose a lien on the property to cover these costs to the Town.
Installations of solar energy systems must be performed by a qualified solar installer.
Prior to operation, electrical connections must be inspected by a Town Code Enforcement Officer/Building Inspector and by an appropriate electrical inspection person or agency, as determined by the Town.
Any connection to the public utility grid must be inspected by the appropriate utility, or an appropriate third-party inspector in the case of small-scale ground- and rooftop-mounted solar energy systems.
Solar energy systems shall be maintained in good working order.
If a solar energy system, or any components thereof, ceases to be actively and continuously used for electrical generation for more than one year, the property owner shall remove the solar energy system and all associated equipment no later than 90 days after the end of the one-year period.
For all large-scale solar energy systems, the owner or operator shall provide a copy of the blueprints and site plan to the local fire chief(s). Upon request, the owner or operator shall cooperate with local emergency services to develop an emergency response plan.
All means of shutting down solar energy systems shall be clearly marked.
The construction and operation of all solar energy systems shall be in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws, ordinances, and regulations, including but not limited to all applicable safety, construction, electrical, and communications requirements.
The fees for all building permits and site plan review required pursuant to this chapter shall be paid at the time each building permit application or site plan application is submitted in such reasonable amount as the Town Board may by resolution establish and amend from time to time.
New structures will be sited to take advantage of solar access insofar as practical, including the orientation of proposed buildings with respect to sun angles, the shading and windscreen potential of existing and proposed vegetation on and off the site, and the impact of solar access to adjacent uses and properties.
To permit maximum solar access to proposed lots and future buildings, wherever reasonably feasible, consistent with other appropriate design considerations and to the extent practicable, new streets shall be located on an east-west axis to encourage building siting with the maximum exposure of roof and wall area to the sun. The Planning Board shall also consider the slope of the property and the nature and location of existing vegetation as they affect solar access.
The impact of street trees on the solar access of the surrounding property shall be minimized to the greatest possible extent in selecting and locating shade trees. Every effort shall be made to avoid shading possible locations of solar collectors/solar panels.
When the Planning Board reviews and acts upon applications for subdivision approval or site plan approval, it shall take into consideration whether the proposed construction would block access to sunlight between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time for existing approved solar energy systems.
The Planning Board may require subdivisions to be platted so as to preserve or enhance solar access for either passive or active systems, consistent with the other requirements of the Town Code.
The plan for development of any site within cluster subdivisions shall be designed and arranged in such a way as to promote solar access for all dwelling units. Considerations may include the following:
In order to maximize solar access, the higher-density dwelling units should be placed on a south-facing slope and lower-density dwelling units sited on a north-facing slope.
Structures should be sited as close to the north lot line as possible to increase yard space to the south for reduced shading of the south face of a structure.
A tall structure should be sited to the north of a short structure, where practical.
Any person or persons jointly or severally aggrieved by any decision of the Planning Board on a site plan approval application may apply to the Supreme Court of the State of New York for relief through a proceeding under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules of the State of New York. Such proceeding shall be governed by the specific provisions of Article 78, except that the action must be initiated as therein provided within 30 days after the filing of the Board's decision in the office of the Town Clerk.
A violation of any condition of a permit, certificate, approval, site plan, or other authorization granted or issued by any board or Town department in the exercise of its jurisdiction pursuant to this chapter shall be considered a violation of this chapter and subject to the enforcement and penalties provisions established herein.
Any violation of this chapter is hereby declared to be an offense, punishable by a fine not exceeding $350 or imprisonment for a period not to exceed six months, or both, for conviction of a first offense; for conviction of a second offense, both of which were committed within a period of five years, punishable by a fine not less than $350 nor more than $700 or imprisonment for a period not to exceed six months, or both; and, upon conviction for a third or subsequent offense, all of which were committed within a period of five years, punishable by a fine not less than $700 nor more than $1,000 or imprisonment for a period not to exceed six months, or both. However, for the purpose of conferring jurisdiction upon courts and judicial officers generally, violations of this chapter shall be deemed misdemeanors, and for such purpose only, all provisions of law relating to misdemeanors shall apply to such violations. Each week's continued violation shall constitute a separate additional violation.
A person who commits any violation of this chapter shall be subject to monetary civil penalties not exceeding $350 for the first violation, not less than $350 nor more than $700 for the second violation occurring within a period of five years, and not less than $700 nor more than $1,000 for a third or subsequent violation occurring within a period of five years. Each week's continued violation shall constitute a separate additional violation.
In case any solar energy system and any associated buildings or structures are erected, constructed, reconstructed, altered, converted or maintained, or any building, structure or land is used, in violation of this chapter, the Town Attorney, with the approval of the Town Board, in addition to other remedies, may institute any appropriate action or proceedings to prevent such unlawful erection, construction, reconstruction, alteration, conversion, maintenance, or use of land, to restrain, correct or abate such violation, to prevent the use in or about such land.