[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Hyde Park 11-28-2016 by L.L. No. 11-2016. 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 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 Hyde Park's current and long term sustainability agenda. It is also consistent with the commitment of Hyde Park to be a "climate smart" community. Because it is in the public interest to provide for and encourage renewable energy systems and a sustainable quality of life, the purpose of this chapter is to facilitate the development and operation of renewable energy systems based on sunlight while minimizing adverse impacts on neighboring properties so as to protect the public health, safety and welfare.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated, unless the context or subject matter requires others. The definitions set forth in § 108-2 of this Code shall also apply where appropriate.
- ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SYSTEMS
- Structures, equipment, devices or construction techniques used for the production of heat, light, cooling, electricity or other forms of energy on site and which may be attached to or be separate from the principal structure.
- BUILDING-INTEGRATED PHOTOVOLTAIC (BIPV) SYSTEMS
- A solar energy system that consists of integrating photovoltaic modules into the building structure, such as the roof or the facade and which does not alter the relief of the roof.
- COLLECTIVE SOLAR
- Solar installations owned collectively through subdivision homeowner associations, condominium associations, "adopt-a-solar-panel" programs, or other similar collective arrangements.
- FLUSH-MOUNTED SOLAR PANEL
- A photovoltaic panel or tile that is installed flush to the surface of a roof and which cannot be angled or raised.
- FREESTANDING OR GROUND-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A solar energy system that is directly installed in the ground and is not attached or affixed to an existing structure. Pole-mounted solar energy systems shall be considered freestanding or ground-mounted solar energy systems for purposes of this chapter.
- NET METERING
- A billing arrangement that allows solar customers to get credit for excess electricity that they generate and deliver back to the public utility grid so that they only pay for their net electricity usage at the end of the month or year.
- PERMIT GRANTING AUTHORITY
- The Town's Zoning Enforcement Officer and Building Inspector who are together charged with granting permits for the operation of solar systems.
- 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 electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training on the hazards involved. Persons 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), 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's permit granting authority 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 parts from other parts of electrical equipment and to determine the nominal voltage of exposed live parts.
- ROOFTOP OR BUILDING-MOUNTED SOLAR SYSTEM
- A solar power system in which solar panels 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.
- The required minimum distance from the property line to the nearest part of the structure measured at right angles to the property line within which a freestanding or ground-mounted solar energy system is installed.
- SMALL-SCALE SOLAR
- For purposes of this chapter, the term "small-scale solar" refers to solar photovoltaic systems or solar thermal that produce up to 12 kilowatts (kW) per hour of energy or solar thermal systems which serve the building to which they are attached or one associated with and do not provide energy for any other buildings in accordance with §§ 130-5 and 130-6 of this chapter.
- 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 EASEMENT
- An easement recorded pursuant to New York Real Property Law § 335-b, the purpose of which is to secure the right to receive sunlight across real property of another for continued access to sunlight necessary to operate a solar collector.
- SOLAR ENERGY EQUIPMENT SYSTEM
- Solar collectors, 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 and photovoltaic. For the purposes of this chapter, a solar energy system does not include any solar energy system of four square feet in size or less.
- SOLAR FARM
- Energy generation facility or area of land principally used to convert solar energy to electricity, whether by photovoltaics, concentrating solar thermal devices or various experimental solar technologies with the primary purpose of wholesale or retail sales of electricity.
- SOLAR PANEL
- A device for the direct conversion of solar energy into electricity.
- SOLAR STORAGE BATTERY
- A device that stores energy from the sun and makes it available in an electrical form.
- 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.
The requirements of this chapter shall apply to all solar energy systems and equipment installations modified or installed after the effective date of this chapter.
Solar energy system installations for which a valid building permit has been issued or, if no building permit is presently required, for which installation has commenced before 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 industry standards as referenced in the New York State Building Code and the Town Code.
Solar collectors, unless part of a solar farm or solar power plant, 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.
Rooftop or building-mounted solar systems shall be permitted in all zoning districts pursuant to a solar system building permit granted by the Town's Building Inspector and Zoning Administrator and subject to the requirements of this chapter.
Rooftop or building-mounted solar systems, which are to be located in the Town's Historic Overlay District or Scenic Overlay District shall, in addition to a solar system building permit, require site plan approval by the Planning Board.
Freestanding or ground-mounted solar energy systems shall be permitted in all zoning districts, subject to the issuance of a solar system building permit and site plan approval by the Planning Board.
Solar farms shall be permitted only in the Greenbelt Zoning District subject to a solar system building permit and a special use permit and site plan approval by the Planning Board.
Building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems are permitted in all zoning districts, provided that they are shown on the plans submitted for the building permit application for the building containing the system approved by the Town's Building Inspector and Zoning Administrator.
Solar thermal systems are permitted in all zoning districts, subject to the conditions set forth hereinafter.
Rooftop and building-mounted solar collectors may exceed the maximum height prescribed for principal or accessory uses for the applicable zoning district, but only to the extent necessary as determined by the Planning Board to achieve the intended purpose of the solar collectors. Such determination shall be made in consideration of the subject property's natural and proposed characteristics, including, but not necessarily limited to, topography, existing and proposed vegetative buffers and proximity to residential and/or commercial uses.
Firesafety and emergency access. All such installations shall comply with the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (the "State Code") to insure firefighter and other emergency responder safety and access.
Freestanding and ground-mounted solar collections shall be subject to the following conditions:
In all districts, a lot must have a minimum size of 40,000 square feet in order for a freestanding or ground-mounted solar collector to be permitted.
The location of a ground-mounted or freestanding solar collector shall comply with the setback requirements for accessory buildings, as set forth in the Code.
No ground-mounted or freestanding solar collectors shall be permitted in the front yard, except on vacant properties.
The height of the solar collector and any mount shall not exceed 20 feet when oriented at a maximum tilt.
Ground-mounted and freestanding solar collectors shall be screened as much as 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 will harmonize with the character of the property and surrounding area. The proposed screening shall not, however, interfere with the normal operation of the solar collectors.
Solar energy equipment shall be located in a manner to reasonably minimize blockage of sunlight for surrounding properties and shading of property to the north while still providing adequate solar access for collectors.
Solar energy equipment shall not be sited within any required buffer areas.
The total surface area of all ground-mounted and freestanding solar collectors on a lot shall not exceed the area of the ground covered by the building structure of the largest building on the lot measured from the exterior walls, excluding patios, decks, balconies, screened and open porches and attached garages. Installations on nonresidential properties exceeding the size may be approved by the Planning Board subject to site plan review pursuant to § 108-9.
The area beneath ground-mounted and freestanding solar collectors shall be included in calculating whether the lot meets maximum permitted lot building coverage and lot surface coverage requirements for the applicable district, notwithstanding that the collectors are not "buildings."
The installation of ground-mounted and freestanding solar collectors shall be considered a development or development activity for purposes of Chapter 93, Stormwater Management, of the Town Code of the Town of Hyde Park.
Solar thermal systems shall comply with the following conditions:
All solar energy systems and equipment shall be permitted only if they are determined by the Town Building Inspector and Zoning Administrator not to present any unreasonable safety risks including, but not limited to, the following:
Prevention of glare. All solar collectors and related equipment shall be surfaced, designed and sited so as not to reflect glare onto adjacent properties.
All solar collector installations must be performed by a qualified solar installer.
Prior to operation, electrical connections must be inspected by the Town's 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 public utility.
Solar energy systems shall be maintained in good working order.
Rooftop and building-mounted solar collectors shall meet New York's Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code standards.
If solar 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 the Town 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 remove the collector mount and associated equipment by no later than 90 days after the end of the twelve-month period.
Marking of equipment.
Solar emergency systems and equipment shall be marked in order to provide emergency responders with appropriate warning and guidance with respect to isolating the solar electric system. Materials used for marking shall be weather-resistant. For residential applications, the marking may be placed within the main service disconnect. If the main service disconnect is operable with the service panel closed, then the marking should be placed on the outside cover.
For commercial application, the marking shall be placed adjacent to the main service disconnect in a location clearly visible from the location where the lever is operated.
Solar farms shall be permitted in the Greenbelt District as an "electric generating" use subject to special permit and site plan review by the Planning Board, subject to the following supplementary regulations in addition to the requirements of § 130-6 of this chapter:
Solar farms shall be enclosed by perimeter fencing to restrict unauthorized access at a height of 7 1/2 feet. However, the Planning Board shall have the discretion to vary or eliminate this requirement where appropriate.
The manufacturer's and installer's identification and appropriate warning signage and emergency contact information shall be posted at the site and clearly visible.
Solar farm buildings and accessory structures shall, to the extent reasonably possible, use materials, colors and textures that will blend the facility into the existing environment.
Appropriate landscaping and/or screening materials may be required to help screen the solar power plant and accessory structures from major roads and neighboring residences.
The average height of the solar panel arrays shall not exceed 12 feet. However, the Planning Board shall have the discretion to permit the solar panel arrays to exceed the height limitation of 12 feet to the extent necessary, as determined by the Planning Board, to achieve the intended purpose of the solar collectors. Such determination shall be made in consideration of the design of the solar collectors and the subject property's natural and proposed characteristics, including, but not limited to, topography, existing and proposed vegetative buffers, and proximity to residential and/or commercial uses.
Solar farm and solar power plant panels and equipment shall be surfaced, designed and sited so as not to reflect glare onto adjacent properties and roadways.
On-site power lines shall, to the maximum extent practicable, be placed underground.
All applications for solar farms shall be accompanied by a decommissioning plan to be implemented upon abandonment, or cessation of activity, or in conjunction with the removal of the structure, which shall be reviewed and approved by the Town Board and its consultants.
The following requirements shall be met for decommissioning:
Solar farms and solar power plants which have not been in active and continuous service for a period of one year shall be removed at the owners' or operators' expense within six months of the date of expiration of the one year period.
All aboveground and below-ground equipment, conduits, structures, fencing and foundations shall be removed from the site to a depth of at least three feet below grade.
The site shall be restored to as natural a condition as possible within six months of the removal of all equipment, structures and foundations. Such restoration shall include, where appropriate, restoration of the surface grade and soil after removal of all equipment and revegetation of restored soil areas with native seed mixes.
The Planning Board shall, as a condition of approval, require the posting of a removal bond of the solar farm's and solar plant's equipment. In lieu of a removal bond, the Town Board, in its discretion, may permit the owner and/or operator to enter into a decommission agreement with the Town which provides, in relevant part, that if the decommission of the site is not completed within six months of the time period specified in Subsection I(1) above, and/or the restoration is not completed within the time period specified in Subsection I(3) above, the Town may, at its own expense, enter the property and remove or provide for the removal of the structures and equipment and/or the restoration of the site, as the case may be, in accordance with the decommissioning plan. Such agreement shall provide, in relevant part, that the Town may recover all expenses incurred for such activities from the defaulting property owner and/or operator. The cost incurred by the Town shall be assessed against the property and shall become a lien and tax upon said property and shall be added to and assessed as part of the taxes to be levied and assessed thereon and enforced and collected with interest in the same manner as other taxes. This provision shall not preclude the Town from collecting such costs and expenses by any other manner by action in law or in equity. In the event of any such legal proceedings, the owner and/or operator, as the case may, be shall be liable for all legal expenses, costs and disbursements in connection with said litigation, as awarded by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Section 108-35 of the Zoning Code applies to violations of this chapter.
If a person is found to be in violation of the provisions of this chapter, appeals may be made to the Zoning Board of Appeals in accordance with the established procedures and time limits of the Zoning Code and New York State Town Law.
If a building permit for a solar energy device is denied based upon a failure to meet the requirements of this chapter, the applicant may seek relief from the Zoning Board of Appeals in accordance with the established procedures and time limits of the Zoning Code and New York State Town Law.
The fees for all building permits required pursuant to this chapter shall be paid at the time each building permit application pursuant to the Fee Schedule of the Town of Hyde Park.