Town of Wilson, NY
Niagara County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Wilson 11-7-2018 by L.L. No. 2-2018. Amendments noted where applicable.]
A. 
The Town of Wilson recognizes that solar energy is a clean, readily available, and renewable energy source. Development of solar energy systems offers an energy resource that can act to attract and promote green business development, and decrease cost of energy to the owners of commercial properties within the Town of Wilson.
B. 
The Town of Wilson has determined that comprehensive regulations regarding the development of solar energy systems are necessary to protect the interests of the Town, its residents, and its businesses. This chapter is intended to promote the effective and efficient use of solar energy resources; set provisions for the placement, design, construction, and operation of such systems to uphold the public health, safety, and welfare; and to ensure that such systems will not have a significant adverse impact on the aesthetic qualities and character of the Town. This legislation is not intended to override agricultural exemptions that are currently in place.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated, unless the context or subject matter requires otherwise.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SYSTEMS
Structures, equipment, devices or construction techniques used for the production of heat, light, a cooling, electricity or other forms of energy on site and may be attached to or 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.
FLUSH-MOUNTED SOLAR PANEL
A photovoltaic panel or tile that is installed flush to the surface of the 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 article.
LARGE-SCALE SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
Any solar energy system that cumulatively on a lot meets all of the following criteria:
A. 
Is an accessory or principal use or structure, designed and intended to generate energy primarily or used to generate 110% or less of the power used at the site, potentially by multiple tenants, through a distribution system or electrical grid that is not available to the general public. If excess energy is produced, it can be sold to a utility under a net metering agreement.
B. 
Consists of an overall footprint of not less than 2,500 and not exceeding 100,000 square feet. Overall footprint shall be determined by the outline created on the ground, building/structure surface, or combination thereof, excluding all rooftop-mounted solar energy systems that meet the requirements of a small-scale or large-scale solar energy system, by wholly enclosing all components/structures of a solar energy system on a lot.
NET METERING
A billing arrangement that allows solar customers 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.
PERMIT GRANTING AUTHORITY
Unless a special use permit is required, the Building Department is charged with granting permits for the operation of solar energy systems.
PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV) SYSTEMS
A solar energy system that produces electricity by the use of semiconductor devices, called photovoltaic cells that generate electricity whenever light strikes them.
ROOFTOP- OR BUILDING-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
A solar power system in which solar panels are mounted on top of the structure of the roof either as a flush-mounted system or as modules fixed to frames which can be tilted toward the south at an optimal angle.
SETBACK
The distance from a front lot line, side lot line, or rear line of a parcel within which a freestanding or ground-mounted solar energy system is installed.
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 NY 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, photovoltaic and concentrated solar. For the purposes of this article, a solar energy system does not include any solar energy system of four square feet in size or less.
SOLAR FARM or SOLAR POWER PLANT
An 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 to electricity.
SOLAR STORAGE BATTERY
A device that stores energy from the sun and makes it available in an electrical form.
SOLAR THERMAL SYSTEMS
Solar thermal 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.
UTILITY-SCALE SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
Any solar energy system that cumulatively on a lot meets at least one of the following:
A. 
Is a principal use or structure, designed and intended to supply energy solely into a utility grid for sale to the general public; or
B. 
Consists of an overall footprint of greater than 100,000 square feet. Overall footprint shall be determined by the outline created on the ground, building/structure surface, or combination thereof, excluding all rooftop-mounted solar energy systems that meet the requirements of small-scale or large-scale solar energy systems, by wholly enclosing all components or structures of a solar energy system on a lot.
A. 
The requirements of this section shall apply to all solar energy systems installed or modified in the Town of Wilson after the effective date of this chapter, excluding general maintenance and repair.
B. 
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 Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code Act and the Town Code.
C. 
In order to promote innovative design and encourage the inclusion of alternative energy systems within the overall design of a building, solar energy systems determined by the Code Enforcement Officer to be building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems, as defined herein, are exempt from the requirements of this article. BIPV systems are still required to meet applicable building codes and obtain all necessary permits. The Code Enforcement Officer may request assistance from the Planning Board to determine whether a solar energy system should be considered a BIPV system.
A. 
Large-scale and utility-scale solar energy systems that meet the definition of a rooftop-mounted solar energy system, as defined herein, shall be considered a permitted use pursuant to this article requiring issuance of a building permit within the RHC 360, RNC 360, LI 360 and HI 360 zoning districts.
B. 
Large-scale solar energy systems meeting the definition of a building-mounted or ground-mounted solar energy system as defined herein may be considered a permitted use pursuant to this article and subject to site plan review by the Planning Board and requiring issuance of a building permit within the RHC 360, RNC 360, LI 360 and HI 360 zoning districts.
C. 
Large-scale and utility-scale solar energy systems shall not be a permitted use on a lot in any zoning district other than the RHC 360, RNC 360, LI 360 and HI 360 zoning districts.
D. 
Utility-scale solar energy systems meeting the definition of a building-mounted or ground-mounted solar energy system as defined herein shall be considered a permitted use requiring the issuance of a special use permit pursuant to this article and Article VII of the Town of Wilson Zoning Ordinance, and subject to site plan review by the Planning Board and requiring issuance of a building permit within the RHC 360, RNC 360, LI 360 and HI 360 zoning districts.
E. 
Notwithstanding any other provision as outlined within this article, the Code Enforcement Officer shall have the ability to refer a matter to the Planning Board for their review and input as he/she deems appropriate.
A. 
All applications for large-scale building-mounted and/or ground-mounted solar energy systems shall be accompanied by an application for site plan review, and all applicable fees.
B. 
All applications for utility-scale building-mounted and/or ground-mounted solar energy systems shall be accompanied by an application for special use permit pursuant to this article and Article VII of the Town of Wilson Zoning Ordinance, an application for site plan review, and all applicable fees.
C. 
All applications for large-scale or utility-scale solar energy systems shall include the following:
(1) 
Plans and drawings of the solar energy system installation signed by a professional engineer registered in New York State showing the proposed layout of the entire solar energy system along with a description of all components, whether on site or off site, existing vegetation and proposed clearing and grading of all sites involved. Clearing and/or grading activities are subject to review by the Planning Board and shall not commence until the issuance of site plan approval.
(2) 
Certification from a professional engineer or architect registered in New York State indicating that the building or structure to which the solar energy system is to be affixed is capable of handling the loading requirements of the solar energy system and various components.
(3) 
One- or three-line electrical diagram detailing the solar energy system installation, associated components, and electrical interconnection methods, with all disconnects and over-current devices.
(4) 
Documentation of access to the project site(s), including location of all access roads, gates, parking areas, etc.
(5) 
A stormwater, erosion, and slope analysis of the land shall be required to be accessed by a New York State licensed professional engineer for the site and any road used to access the site. The total area of the face of all solar panels shall be calculated and considered impervious surface. The applicant shall comply with the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System guidelines. A SWPPP (Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan) shall be prepared, if determined to be required, and all local stormwater regulations shall be complied with.
(6) 
Documentation of utility notification, including an electric service order number.
(7) 
Any signage used to advertise the solar energy facility shall be limited to that required for safety and operational purposes and shall be reasonably shielded from abutting properties. Where feasible, lighting of the solar photovoltaic installation shall be directed downward and shall incorporate full cutoff fixtures to reduce light pollution.
(8) 
Sunchart. Where an applicant for a solar energy system requests that the setback for solar collectors from the south property line be less than that identified in § 106-6A(11)(a)[1] to [3], the Planning Board may require that the applicant submit a sunchart to demonstrate effectiveness of the proposed solar energy system. The sunchart shall also indicate the potential for obstructions to the solar skyspace of the proposed solar energy system under a scenario where an adjacent site is developed as otherwise permitted by applicable provisions of the Town of Wilson Zoning Ordinance with a building/structure built to maximum bulk and height at the minimum setback. Where no standards for height and/or setback are established, this scenario shall assume a minimum fifty-foot building height developed with a maximum setback of five feet from the property line. This article in no way places responsibility on the Town for guaranteeing the solar skyspace of a solar energy system in the event setbacks are waived at the applicant's request.
(9) 
A weather-resistant sign not to exceed six square feet shall be displayed on or near the main access point and shall list the facility name, property owner's name, mailing address and telephone number.
(10) 
A clearly visible warning sign concerning voltage must be placed at the base of all pad-mounted transformers or substations not to exceed four square feet.
(11) 
Construction schedule: proposed start date/completion connection to power grid and date when commencement.
(12) 
Decommissioning plan.
D. 
All fees shall be approved by the Town Board by resolution. Nothing in this article shall be read as limiting the ability of the Town to enter into host community agreements with any applicant to compensate the Town for expenses or impacts on the community. The Town shall require any applicant to enter into an escrow agreement to pay the engineering and legal costs of any application review, including the review required under SEQRA if an EIS is required.
A. 
All applications for large-scale or utility-scale solar energy systems shall be in accordance with the following:
(1) 
All solar energy systems shall adhere to all applicable Town of Wilson building, plumbing, electrical, and fire codes.
(2) 
Development and operation of a solar energy system shall not have a significant adverse impact on fish, wildlife, or plant species or their critical habitats, or other significant habitats identified by the Town of Wilson or other federal or state regulatory agencies.
(3) 
The design, construction, operation, and maintenance of any solar energy system shall prevent the misdirection and/or reflection of solar rays onto neighboring properties, public roads, and public parks in excess of that which already exists.
(4) 
All structures and devices used to support solar collectors shall be nonreflective and/or painted a subtle or earth-tone color.
(5) 
All transmission lines and wiring associated with a solar energy system shall be buried and include necessary encasements in accordance with the National Electric Code and Town requirements. The Planning Board may recommend waiving this requirement if sufficient engineering data is submitted by the applicant to demonstrate that underground transmission lines are not feasible or practical. The applicant is required to show the locations of all proposed overhead and underground electric utility lines, including substations and junction boxes and other electrical components for the project on the site plan.
(6) 
All transmission lines and electrical wiring shall be in compliance with the utility company's requirements for interconnection.
(7) 
When 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 Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code when in use and when no longer used, shall be disposed of in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Town of Wilson and all other applicable laws and regulations.
(8) 
Artificial lighting of solar energy systems shall be limited to lighting required for safety and operational purposes and shall be shielded from all neighboring properties and public roads.
(9) 
Any signage used to advertise the solar energy facility shall be in accordance with the Town's signage regulations.
(10) 
Lot requirements. The overall footprint for any large-scale or utility-scale ground-mounted solar energy system shall be permitted to occupy up to 100% of the overall buildable area of the site, as required by the Town, and shall not be counted towards the site's maximum lot coverage as required by the Town. Overall footprint shall be determined by the outline created on the ground by wholly enclosing all components/structures of a solar energy system on a lot.
(11) 
Bulk and siting requirements. Applies to large-scale or utility-scale solar energy systems located in the RHC 360, RNC 360, LI 360 and HI 360 zoning districts.
(a) 
Rooftop-mounted solar energy systems.
[1] 
The maximum height of any rooftop-mounted solar energy system shall be eight feet, as measured from the finished surface of the roof to which the system is affixed.
[2] 
Where rooftop-mounted solar energy systems are affixed to a pitched or peaked roof, the solar energy system should generally follow the slope of the roof.
[3] 
A rooftop-mounted solar energy system shall not extend horizontally beyond the plane of the roof surface.
[4] 
Where practical and when obstruction of solar skyspace can be avoided, a rooftop-mounted solar energy system shall be screened from view from the public right-of-way by use of a building parapet or other measure.
(b) 
Building-mounted solar energy systems.
[1] 
The maximum height of a building-mounted solar energy system shall be 15 feet as measured from the lowest point where the system is affixed to the vertical side of a building.
[2] 
A building-mounted solar energy system shall not extend horizontally more than eight feet from the vertical surface of a building.
[3] 
Building-mounted solar energy systems should be integrated into the design of the building and shall not obstruct any window, door, or other architectural feature of the building.
(c) 
Ground-mounted solar energy systems.
[1] 
The maximum height of a ground-mounted solar energy system shall be 15 feet as measured from the finished grade.
(12) 
Setbacks.
(a) 
Large-scale or utility-scale ground-mounted solar energy systems.
[1] 
The setback from the south property line for all solar collectors constructed as part of a large-scale or utility-scale ground-mounted solar energy system shall be 135 feet.
[2] 
In no case shall the setback from the south property line be less than that determined by the setback for accessory structures identified for the zoning district in which the system is located.
(b) 
Utility-scale ground-mounted solar energy systems.
[1] 
All solar energy equipment and components/structures developed as part of a utility-scale ground-mounted solar energy system shall be set back from any property zoned RR 200, SRR 150, SRR 100, UR 40, UR 100 and WC 160, a public road, or any public park a minimum of 60 feet.
[2] 
All other setbacks for all solar energy equipment and components/structures developed as part of a utility-scale ground-mounted solar energy system, whether developed as a principal use or accessory use, shall be as determined by the setback for principal structures identified for the zoning district in which the system is located.
(c) 
All other setbacks for all solar energy system equipment and components/structures developed as part of a large-scale or utility-scale rooftop-mounted, building-mounted and/or ground-mounted solar energy system not identified above shall be as determined by the setback for accessory structures identified for the zoning district in which the system is located.
(13) 
Due to the need to keep the solar skyspace for solar energy systems free from obstructions, the Planning Board may recommend modifying the landscaping requirements for any site proposed to contain solar collectors and shall ensure that any landscaping proposed is low-growth vegetation that will not obstruct the solar skyspace at mature height.
(14) 
Following construction of a large-scale or utility-scale ground-mounted solar energy system, all disturbed areas where soil has been exposed shall be reseeded with grass and/or planted with low-level vegetation capable of preventing soil erosion and airborne dust. Failure to comply with these provisions shall result in an enforcement action in accordance with § 102-4 of the Town Code.
(15) 
Solar energy 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.
(a) 
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.
(b) 
For the nonresidential 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.
(c) 
In the event any of the standards in this article for markings are more stringent than applicable provisions of applicable residential, building, fire, and electric codes, they shall be deemed to be guidelines only and the standards of the applicable residential, building, fire and electric codes shall apply.
B. 
Applications for utility-scale solar energy systems shall meet the following additional criteria:
(1) 
Photo simulations shall be included showing the proposed solar energy system in relation to the building/site along with elevation views and dimensions, and manufacturer's specs and photos of the proposed solar energy system, solar collectors, and all other components.
(2) 
Any site containing a utility-scale solar energy system shall contain fencing or other enclosure acceptable to the Town enclosing all solar energy system components that present safety hazards.
(3) 
A berm, landscape screen, or other opaque enclosure, or any combination thereof acceptable to the Town capable of screening the site, shall be provided along any property line that abuts an existing residence or any property zoned other than the RHC 360, RNC 360, LI 360 and HI 360 zoning districts.
(4) 
After completion of a utility-scale solar energy system, the applicant shall provide a post-construction certification from a professional engineer registered in New York State that the project complies with applicable codes and industry practices and has been constructed and is operating according to the design plans.
A. 
Removal of trees and other existing vegetation should be minimized or offset with planting elsewhere on the property.
B. 
Removal of any prime agricultural soil from the subject parcel is prohibited.
C. 
Proposed major solar systems shall not be placed on lands containing prime farmland soils.
D. 
Roadways within the site shall not be constructed of impervious materials and shall be designed to minimize the extent of roadways constructed and soil compaction.
E. 
All on-site utility and transmission lines shall, to the extent feasible, be placed under ground.
F. 
Solar collectors and other facilities shall be designed and located in order to minimize reflective glare and/or glint toward any inhabited buildings or adjacent properties or roads.
G. 
All mechanical equipment, including any structure for batteries or storage cells, shall be enclosed by a minimum six-foot-high fence with a self-locking gate and provided with landscaping screening.
H. 
Major systems or solar farms shall not obstruct solar access to adjacent properties.
A. 
Unsafe, inoperable, and/or abandoned solar energy systems and solar energy systems for which a special use permit has expired shall be removed by the owner. A solar energy system shall be deemed abandoned when it fails to produce energy for at least one year. All safety hazards created by the installation and operation of the solar energy system shall be eliminated and the site restored to its preexisting condition within six months of the removal of the solar energy system.
B. 
For all utility-scale solar energy systems, the applicant shall submit a decommissioning plan for review and approval as part of the special use permit application. The plan must specify that after the solar energy system is no longer in use (as determined by the owner/operator or the Building Inspector), it shall be removed by the applicant or any subsequent owner. The decommissioning plan shall identify the anticipated life of the project, and shall demonstrate how the removal of all infrastructure and restoration shall be conducted to return the parcel to its original state prior to construction. The plan shall also include an expected timeline for execution and a cost estimate for decommissioning prepared by a professional engineer or qualified contractor. Cost estimates shall take inflation into consideration and be revised every five years during operation of the system and include any salvage value. Removal of the large-scale solar energy system must be completed in accordance with the approved decommissioning plan and the standards provided as follows:
(1) 
All structures and foundations associated with the large-scale solar energy systems shall be removed;
(2) 
All disturbed ground surfaces shall be restored to original conditions including top soil and seeding as necessary; and
(3) 
All electrical systems shall be properly disconnected and all cables and buried wiring shall be removed.
C. 
A bond or other approved security shall be provided to cover the cost of removal and restoration of the area impacted by the solar system. Security shall be in an amount equal to 125% of the construction estimate as presented in the approved decommissioning plan. The bond shall be renewed every five years or, as necessary, to reflect adjustments in the projected costs of decommissioning.
D. 
In the event that the property owner fails to remove the aforesaid nonfunctioning system within the time prescribed herein, the Town may enter upon the land where such system has been installed and remove same. All expenses incurred by the Town in connection with the removal of the nonfunctioning system shall be assessed against the land on which the freestanding or ground-mounted solar collector(s) is located and shall be levied and collected in the same manner as provided in Article 15 of the New York Town Law for the levy and collection of a special ad valorem levy.
A. 
Any change of ownership or operation shall require appearance before the Town to ensure a shared understanding of conditions imposed by the special use permit including, but not limited to, the necessity of an effective bond.
B. 
Any post-construction changes or alterations to the solar energy system shall be done by amendment to the special use permit only and subject to the requirements of this article.
A. 
Time limit on completion. After the granting of a special permit of a utility scale solar energy system with concurrent site plan approval or site plan renewal of a freestanding or ground-mounted solar energy system by the Zoning Board of Appeals, the building permit shall be obtained within six months and the project shall be completed within 12 months. A six-month extension to obtain a building permit or the completion time can be issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals upon application by the applicant. If not constructed, the special permit and/or site plan approval shall automatically lapse within 12 months after the date of approval by the Town of Wilson Zoning Board of Appeals (unless an extension is granted).
B. 
Inspection. Upon reasonable notice, the Town of Wilson Building Inspector or his/her designee may enter a lot on which a solar energy system has been approved for the purpose of compliance with any requirements or conditions. Twenty-four hours advance notice by telephone to the owner/operator or designated contact person shall be deemed reasonable notice. Furthermore, a utility-scale solar system may be inspected annually by a New York State licensed professional engineer who has been approved by the Town at any time, upon determination by the Town's Building Inspector that damage may have occurred, and a copy of the inspection report shall be submitted to the Town Building Inspector. Any fee or expense associated with this inspection shall be borne entirely by the permit holder.
C. 
General complaint process. During construction, the Town Building Inspector can issue a stop order at any time for any violations of a special permit or building permit. After construction is complete, the permit holder of a utility-scale solar energy system shall establish a contact person, including name and phone number, for receipt of any complaint concerning any permit requirements.
A. 
The Town of Wilson recognizes that solar energy is a clean, readily available, and renewable energy source. Development of solar energy systems offers an energy resource that can act to attract and promote green business development, and decrease cost of energy to the owners of residential properties within the Town of Wilson.
B. 
The Town of Wilson has determined that comprehensive regulations regarding the development of solar energy systems are necessary to protect the interests of the Town, its residents, and its businesses. This chapter is intended to promote the effective and efficient use of solar energy resources; set provisions for the placement, design, construction, and operation of such systems to uphold the public health, safety, and welfare; and to ensure that such systems will not have a significant adverse impact on the aesthetic qualities and character of the Town. This legislation is not intended to override agricultural exemptions that are currently in place.
C. 
Greater restrictions to prevail. It is not intended by this chapter to repeal, except as herein stated, abrogate or impair existing conditions previously made or permits previously issued relating to the use of buildings or premises or to impair or interfere with any easements, covenants or agreements existing between parties. Except as otherwise provided herein, whenever this chapter imposes a greater restriction upon the use of buildings or premises than is required by existing provisions of law, ordinance, regulations or permits or by such easements, covenants or agreements, the provisions of this chapter shall control.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated, unless the context or subject matter requires otherwise.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SYSTEMS
Structures, equipment, devices or construction techniques used for the production of heat, light, a cooling, electricity or other forms of energy on site and may be attached to or 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.
FLUSH-MOUNTED SOLAR PANEL
A photovoltaic panel or tile that is installed flush to the surface of the 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 article.
NET METERING
A billing arrangement that allows solar customers 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.
PERMIT GRANTING AUTHORITY
Unless a special use permit is required, the Building Department is charged with granting permits for the operation of solar energy systems.
PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV) SYSTEMS
A solar energy system that produces electricity by the use of semiconductor devices, called photovoltaic cells that generate electricity whenever light strikes them.
ROOFTOP- OR BUILDING-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
A solar power system in which solar panels are mounted on top of the structure of the roof either as a flush-mounted system or as modules fixed to frames which can be tilted toward the south at an optimal angle.
SETBACK
The distance from a front lot line, side lot line, or rear line of a parcel within which a free standing or ground-mounted solar energy system is installed.
SMALL-SCALE SOLAR
For purposes of this chapter, the term "small-scale solar" refers to any solar energy system that cumulatively on a lot consists of an overall footprint not more than 5,000 square feet in size.
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 NY 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, photovoltaic and concentrated solar. For the purposes of this article, a solar energy system does not include any solar energy system of four square feet in size or less.
SOLAR FARM or SOLAR POWER PLANT
An 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 to electricity.
SOLAR STORAGE BATTERY
A device that stores energy from the sun and makes it available in an electrical form.
SOLAR THERMAL SYSTEMS
Solar thermal 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.
A. 
The requirements of this section shall apply to all solar energy systems installed or modified in the Town of Wilson after the effective date of this chapter, excluding general maintenance and repair.
B. 
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 Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code Act and the Town Code.
A. 
The installation of a solar collector, whether attached to the main structure or as a detached accessory structure, shall require a building permit. Solar collectors are subject to the minimum setbacks, offsets and lot area coverage for whatever use district in which they are proposed to be installed. Height limitations for solar collectors shall be five feet above the level of the permitted building height. All solar collectors and their associated support elements shall be designed according to generally accepted engineering practice to withstand wind pressures applied to exposed areas by wind from any direction, to minimize the migration of light or sound from the installation and to minimize the development of sight obstructions for adjacent structures or land parcels. Installation of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems, as defined herein, are exempt from the requirements of this article. BIPV systems are still required to meet applicable building codes and obtain all necessary permits. The Code Enforcement Officer may request assistance from the Planning Board to determine whether a solar energy system should be considered a BIPV system.
B. 
Other alternative natural energy conservation devices shall be considered structures and shall require a building permit. All permit applications for such devices will be reviewed and considered pursuant to the Zoning Ordinance of the Town of Wilson.
C. 
Rooftop- or building-mounted solar energy system. These systems shall be allowed based upon the following criteria:
(1) 
Small-scale solar energy systems located in the RR 200, SRR 150, SRR 100, UR 40, UR 100, and WC 160 zoning districts are only permitted if they contain solar collectors (up to 5,000 square feet) located on the rooftops of principal or accessory buildings. The solar collectors must be completely contained within the limits of the building roof. All other equipment and components of the solar energy system shall be located within the rear yard, as defined by the Zoning Schedule,[1] only and are subject to setbacks for accessory structures.
[1]
Editor's Note: The Zoning Schedule is included as an attachment to this chapter.
(2) 
Small-scale solar energy systems featuring rooftop-mounted solar collectors (up to 5,000 square feet) on the rooftops of principal or accessory buildings are also permitted in RHC 360, RNC 360, LI 360 and HI 360 zoning districts. Rooftop-mounted solar collectors must be completely contained within the limits of the principal or accessory building's roof.
(3) 
Rooftop- and building-mounted, small-scale solar energy systems exceeding 750 square feet in size shall require site plan approval by the Town Planning Board.
D. 
Freestanding or ground-mounted solar energy system. These systems shall be allowed based upon the following criteria:
(1) 
Units shall be prohibited from any side or front yard as defined by Town code.
(2) 
Units shall be placed a minimum of 50 feet away from any property line. In no case shall the Zoning Board of Appeals grant a variance of this setback requirement that would result in a setback of less than 25 feet.
(3) 
A ground-mounted solar unit of 50 square feet or greater shall require a site plan application to be completed and submitted to the Town.
(4) 
In the RR 200, SRR 150, SRR 100, UR 40, UR 100 and WC 160 districts, ground-mounted solar units of 500 square feet or less will be allowed as an accessory structure by issuance of a building permit.
(5) 
In the RR200, SRR 150, SRR 100, UR 40, UR 100 and WC 160 districts, ground-mounted solar units greater than 500 square feet but equal to or less than 1,500 square feet, will be allowed as an accessory structure by site plan approval by the Town Planning Board, on lots that are a minimum of 200 feet in lot width and a minimum of three acres in size.
(6) 
In the RHC 360, RNC 360, LI 360 and HI 360 zoning districts, ground-mounted solar units less than 2,500 square feet in size are allowed as an accessory structure by site plan approval by the Town Planning Board.
E. 
Notwithstanding any other provision as outlined within this article, the Code Enforcement Officer shall have the ability to refer a matter to the Planning Board for their review and input as he/she deems appropriate.
A. 
Whenever the regulations made by this chapter require a greater width or size of yards or courts or require a lower height of building or less number of stories or require a greater percentage of lot to be left unoccupied or impose other higher standards than required in any other ordinance or regulation, the provisions of the regulations made by this chapter shall govern.
B. 
Whenever the provisions of any other ordinance or regulation require a greater width or size of yards or courts or require a lower height of building or less number of stories or require a greater percentage of the lot to be left unoccupied or impose other higher standards than are required by regulations made by this chapter, the provisions of such other ordinance or regulation shall govern.
A. 
Allowing or permitting the reflective glare of solar rays of any solar energy system or array of solar panels, of any nature or kind or description, onto neighboring properties, public roads, or public parks, under any circumstances whatsoever, is strictly prohibited.
(1) 
It is the responsibility of any landowner, resident, manager, tenant, or lessee of any premises upon which there is situate a solar energy system or array of solar panels of any nature, kind, or description to keep reflective glare of any description from going onto neighboring properties, public roads or public park at any time. In that regard it is the ongoing responsibility of such persons to conduct regular inspections of such systems or array to prevent the direction of reflective glare onto the property of another and, if necessary, to make appropriate adjustments to prevent the same from occurring.
(2) 
In the event such persons become aware of, or with the exercise of reasonable care would have become aware of, or has received a complaint, that reflective glare from his solar energy system or array of solar panels is upon the property of another, such person shall undertake action to immediately block the reflective glare. This may be accomplished by adjusting the angles of the system or array, if possible, or by physically blocking the glare by covering the panels or by removing them.
(3) 
Upon the failure, refusal or neglect of such person to immediately block the reflective glare as directed by Subsection A(2) above, Town of Wilson workforces, at the direction of the Town Building Inspector and/or Code Enforcement Officer, shall cover such system or array of panels, if possible, to block the reflective glare. If not, the system or panels shall be physically deconstructed or removed to the point the reflective glare is blocked.
(4) 
In the event the system or panels are removed or deconstructed as set forth in Subsection A(3) above, the owner or person responsible for the system or array shall not replace or reconstruct the system or panels until he applies to and received from the Planning Board of the Town of Wilson a permit after submitting to the Building Inspector a plan of operation that will ensure no further incidents of reflective glare onto neighboring properties, public road, or public park will occur.
(5) 
Further, or additional complaints of such incidents shall be grounds to revoke any permit received from the Town of Wilson for the system or array and the system or array shall be fully dismantled and removed from the premises.
B. 
Solar energy systems shall be marked in order to provide emergency responders with appropriate warning and guidance with respect to isolating the solar electric system.
(1) 
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.
(2) 
For the nonresidential 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.
(3) 
In the event any of the standards in this chapter for markings are more stringent than applicable provisions of applicable residential, building, fire, and electric codes, they shall be deemed to be guidelines only and the standards of the applicable residential, building, fire and electric codes shall apply.
(4) 
In addition to a main service disconnect all solar energy systems shall have the ability to be powered down with stored AC power drained in the event of an emergency.
Any violation of this chapter shall be subject to the same civil and criminal penalties provided for in the Wilson Town Code, including any applicable zoning regulations, and/or the laws of the State of New York.