|Municipal Planning for the Coming Solar Expansion|
While PA’s solar power industry is rapidly growing, government regulation of solar power remains in its infancy. Pennsylvania currently has no state laws or regulations for solar arrays. This leaves local municipalities as the first line of regulation for solar collection systems. The following are just a few of the important issues for municipalities to keep in mind as they attempt to provide appropriate regulation of solar facilities.
Use a good definition. Municipalities should be forward-looking in defining solar use to control ancillary uses and construction such as storage and distribution of energy. An increasing amount of solar array leases (twenty percent and growing) contemplate the construction of a structure on the property for energy storage in the form of massive battery arrays. Transmission structures and wiring are also required. Be certain to capture all the dimensions of the use.
Accessory vs. principal use. Deciding how expansive of an array is be allowed will define whether solar panels will be located in small groups or on rooftops of ag buildings, or arrayed in rows across vast acres of farm ground. It is estimated that less than ten (10%) percent of municipalities allow solar as an accessory use, and less than five (5%) percent allow solar as a principal use. The other, vast majority of municipalities deal with solar as a conditional use.
Setbacks and height restrictions. Any ordinance should provide reasonable restrictions to limit the impact on neighbors. Screening and fencing should also be considered. There is much talk in the industry about the technology of clear transparent panels. Will this lead to taller arrays, stacking multiple panels atop one another?
Decommissioning. At the end of the array’s useful life, both landowner and municipality have an interest in seeing the array dismantled and the property returned to a condition for other appropriate use. Municipalities are experienced in such bonding for land development improvements, and the municipality can help assure that the bonding will remain in place and viable for the work regardless of future price increases. But should the municipality take the place of the landowner as the party holding the solar company’s decommissioning bond, or require additional bonding above and beyond the lease?
CGA Law Firm has experienced municipal attorneys who can guide you through the ordinance process. For more information on solar law issues, contact CGA Law Firm’s Municipal Law Group.
CGA Law Firm Attorneys Jasmine Butler and Timothy Bupp recently attended the 2021 Penn State Solar Law Symposium and brought back valuable insights on solar law issues of interest and benefit to CGA clients.
Attorney Jasmine Butler joined the CGA legal team in 2019. She is currently an attorney who is working in Real Estate Law, Business and Corporate Law, and Municipal Law. She also has experience in a variety of other practices as well.
Jasmine served as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. She also gained experience as a Certified Legal Intern at the Central Pennsylvania Civil Law Clinics.
Jasmine may be reached at (717) 848-4900, Ext. 120 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim assists his clients by utilizing the knowledge he gained from his advanced degrees in business administration, business taxation, and law, as well as his certifications in estate planning and employee benefits taxation. He has earned the designation of Certified Elder Law Attorney from the National Elder Law Foundation, the only ABA-approved Elder Law certification approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Tim may be reached directly at (717) 887-7504 or by email: email@example.com.