• We're a fun, friendly, and diverse group of planners, placemakers, students, and other folks who found their people here. Create your FREE Cyburbia ID, and join us today! Use your email address, or register through your Reddit, Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Microsoft account.

Solar panels in residential zoning

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
4,992
Points
21
I'm a municipal planner for a small city (40,000). I have a request to place solar panel arrays in a residential rear-yard. I have no applicable regulations at all, and will probably end up considering them an accessory use. I intend to see about adopting regulations and wonder if anyone has any "norms"? These are not roof-mounts. I am talking about an 8'X20' array of panels mounted on a pole. Any input is welcome....
 

Tide

Cyburbian
Messages
2,712
Points
21
I too would consider them an accessory use like you did. That should regulate height, and setbacks, as for the aesthetic problems that may come about I have no advice. I am a fan of alternative energy and any roadblocks in your code should be reviewed or eliminated to make this use easily applied for, and implemented.

Good luck, I'm interested to see that the outcome is.
 

Otis

Cyburbian
Messages
5,165
Points
28
Ditto generally on what Tide said. Aesthetics are an issue and they are truly ugly. I prefer roof-mounted, but sometimes that's not practical.
 

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
4,992
Points
21
I was surprised looking at state codes here and at many other nearby cities to find no regulations or really even references. It looks like I'm not going to be hamstrung by anyone up the foodchain if I consider them as an accessory. Thanks for the input, I really appreciate it.
 

Richi

Cyburbian
Messages
432
Points
13
I don't have the answers, but I predict that in the not too distant future, regulating solar access is going to become a big deal. "I just spent $$$$ on by solar panels and the jerk next door adds a second story (or plants a big tree, etc.) that is blocking by sun!"
 

BrianVDB

Cyburbian
Messages
87
Points
4
I don't have the answers, but I predict that in the not too distant future, regulating solar access is going to become a big deal. "I just spent $$$$ on by solar panels and the jerk next door adds a second story (or plants a big tree, etc.) that is blocking by sun!"
Or, "This jerk next to me just installed solar panels, and now I'm blinded by glare every time I look out my window!"

Agreed, it's going to be a pain for a lot of people in the south. Since we have snow on the ground 4 months of the year up here, I don't think it will be as big of a thing as personal wind energy.
 

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
4,992
Points
21
Or, "This jerk next to me just installed solar panels, and now I'm blinded by glare every time I look out my window!"

Agreed, it's going to be a pain for a lot of people in the south. Since we have snow on the ground 4 months of the year up here, I don't think it will be as big of a thing as personal wind energy.
True true true. I think that we'll all be dealing with this issue very soon. I have to admit that I was just too chicken to break ground and develop regs right now when it has come up. I am just looking for a way to deal with it appropriately and hoping that soon somebody smarter than me will write a good standard I can steal...I mean, take inspiration from.
 
Messages
2,228
Points
18
I have no applicable regulations at all, and will probably end up considering them an accessory use. I intend to see about adopting regulations and wonder if anyone has any "norms"?
Re: pole-mounted solar panels.
(U.S.) ordinances usually categorize them as accessories.

ursus said:
I am just looking for a way to deal with it appropriately and hoping that soon somebody smarter than me will write a good standard I can steal...I mean, take inspiration from.
I don't know if the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission is smarter than you:), but here's what they have come up with as of March 4, 2009:
http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:1ndZE4aRYY8J:www.sbcountyplanning.org/PDF/boards/CntyPC/03-11-2009/09ORD-00000-00001/Attachment%20C.pdf
 

kw5280

Cyburbian
Messages
64
Points
4
Here in Denver we are in the middle of a new zoning code release. I was at one of the public meetings a couple of weeks ago and the majority of comments from the audience were concerning solar panels. It is going to be an issue with the "green-energy economy" coming online. As much as I support harvesting renewable energy sources I can't help but wonder if all these homeowners have really calculated the return on solar panels especially if the cost is mortgaged. But such is the nature of planning, we deal with the public and the public runs hot and cold on topical issues.
 

natski

Cyburbian
Messages
2,579
Points
21
I have never seen ground mounted solar panels- only roof mounted ones- but i would think that you would have to regulate them, as you would regulate satellite/communications dishes that are ground mounted- except would take a few extra things into allowance like glare and overshadowing from surrounding properties.
 

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
4,992
Points
21
These are very helpful, thanks to everybody. As to the cost / return issue. The gentleman I'm dealing with is making an investment of about 37,000 to install two arrays. He'll generate about 94 kilowatt hours with them on average, which is fairly significant. The trick is that you don't have to be a math genius to figure that it will take him a long time to start getting a return. Will the technology become cheaper as the "green revolution" continues? Probably, and as it does it will become even more prevalent.
 

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
4,992
Points
21
Re: pole-mounted solar panels.
(U.S.) ordinances usually categorize them as accessories.

I don't know if the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission is smarter than you:), but here's what they have come up with as of March 4, 2009:
http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:1ndZE4aRYY8J:www.sbcountyplanning.org/PDF/boards/CntyPC/03-11-2009/09ORD-00000-00001/Attachment%20C.pdf
GOD BLESS YOU!! Something to read.. (and I guarantee their smarter than me...not feeling especially smart these days.)
 

ColoGI

Cyburbian
Messages
2,568
Points
17
Most of the links on this thread were expired but I found this from Santa Barbara County Planning Commission which was helpful to me:


http://www.sbcountyplanning.org/PDF/boards/MPC/04-22-2009/09ORD-00000-00002/Attachment D- 02-25-09SR.pdf
I'm writing an article now about solar access to shop around to trade mags, and the SBA is maybe the best I've come across for stealing from - short and sweet. Boulder might be stealable as well for other reasons... BTW, Denver's code leaves a lot to be desired and AFAICT it won't be adequately addressed in the...ahem...new...um..."Form-based" code and if you can find it mentioned you won't be stealing it.
 

ursus

Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
Messages
4,992
Points
21
Thanks for the notes. I did look at the Santa Barbara code and we're currently considering adopting some specific standards here in Roy (that's my town). In the summer when this first came up I ended up considering the panels "accessory structures" and it worked out alright, but you can imagine that it was a lucky fit and wouldn't always. Thanks again for the information.
 

ThePinkPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
364
Points
12
Solar Panels

Vermont State law prohibits any municipal review of wind, solar, geothermal, (etc) apperatus if it is connected to the 'grid'. It seems most are and in my 5 years here I've never been able to review a single one, though of course muncipalties are permitted to testify to the state review board if they wish.
 

The One

Cyburbian
Messages
8,289
Points
29
Well....

I like the bit about the panel being limited to 1.2X the needed power for the property. Photovoltaic systems are now dark black/blue panel systems and don't provide any real reflective qualities. Why not just limit residential to Photovoltaic panels and make them meet setbacks/height requirements...then call it a day.
 

boilerplater

Cyburbian
Messages
916
Points
21
Why not just limit residential to Photovoltaic panels and make them meet setbacks/height requirements...then call it a day.
Because solar thermal is a lot more efficient, is much cheaper and then of course has a faster return on investment. Plus if individuals can sell power back to their utility, it can make it a much more sensible financial prospect. The 1.2X needed power bit isn't such a great idea then. Some states require utilities to do this. The current tax rebate and MACRS depreciation of the cost is making solar a lot more attractive.

Personally I like the aesthetics of solar panels, but they work much better with more modern architecture and contemporary materials, i.e. a lot of glass, aluminum and steel.
 

ColoGI

Cyburbian
Messages
2,568
Points
17
Because solar thermal is a lot more efficient, is much cheaper and then of course has a faster return on investment. Plus if individuals can sell power back to their utility, it can make it a much more sensible financial prospect. The 1.2X needed power bit isn't such a great idea then. Some states require utilities to do this. The current tax rebate and MACRS depreciation of the cost is making solar a lot more attractive.

Personally I like the aesthetics of solar panels, but they work much better with more modern architecture and contemporary materials, i.e. a lot of glass, aluminum and steel.
Agreed. Soon enough the 1.2x is going to look like a quaint - if not dumb - idea. And you can make your own solar hot water for cheap, making this even more narrow-minded. But likely soon enough folk will be ignoring all that anyway and most will look the other way. Let us hope neighbors are smart enough to talk to each other about glare issues and shading and all that.
 

The One

Cyburbian
Messages
8,289
Points
29
Sure but.....

Because solar thermal is a lot more efficient, is much cheaper and then of course has a faster return on investment. Plus if individuals can sell power back to their utility, it can make it a much more sensible financial prospect. The 1.2X needed power bit isn't such a great idea then. Some states require utilities to do this. The current tax rebate and MACRS depreciation of the cost is making solar a lot more attractive.

Personally I like the aesthetics of solar panels, but they work much better with more modern architecture and contemporary materials, i.e. a lot of glass, aluminum and steel.
Solar Thermal makes sense where you need to heat in a colder climate. There appears to be a regional application for each of these technologies.

"When you add up all the cost of the pumps, tank, controller, plumbing, radiators, and installation, the savings in fuel would take a long time to pay for the system. So that may be why, despite the significant advantage of solar collector panel cost and efficiency compared with PV systems, thermal solar space heating systems haven't taken off. In addition, the system would sit idle about 6 month out of the year when I don't need much heat. In several of those months, I need air conditioning and a solar thermal system wouldn't do me much good for that application. A PV system could generate usable energy year-round, and would generate 50% more in the longer summer days when I tend use more electricity anyway."

http://solarpowerauthority.com/whats-better-solar-thermal-or-solar-pv/
 

boilerplater

Cyburbian
Messages
916
Points
21
Solar Thermal makes sense where you need to heat in a colder climate. There appears to be a regional application for each of these technologies
Yeah, here in the southwest you'll notice a lot of black tubing on roofs. Its for heating pool water. From what I hear, they'll give you about 2 months more use of a pool. But where solar thermal can save you money is on the hot water you use for bathing, dishes, etc.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that you might want to address Building Integrated Photovolataics (BIPVs) and thin-film PVs in your code. The BIPVs are made to look like more common building materials, such as standing-seam metal roofing. The thin-films are difficult to recognize for what they are.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
12,445
Points
39
Top Bottom