Wheatfield proposes law regulating solar energy

Dec 12, 2016

Wheatfield is the latest community to introduce a bill that would impose new regulations on solar energy.

Many towns have been passing laws limiting the number of solar panels that can be built in residential and commercial areas.

Credit File photo

“We had a group of volunteers that took a look at this for the last six, seven months,” Town Supervisor Robert Cliffe told WBFO. “They looked at laws of other towns in the area, including the Town of Lockport, they just recent re-did theirs. They took a look at what the state was putting out with their recommendations and they came out with what they believe was the best law for the Town of Wheatfield.”

Those regulations include planning board approval for ground-based solar panels as well as larger solar panel farms meant to generate electricity for sale.

The town currently only has a single line in the zoning code that bars neighbors form blocking the sun from reaching a panel. Cliffe is hopeful the law will be passed when it sees a vote on December 19.

“My goal is to get the law completed so the persons who are looking to put in solar collectors next year stand-alone collectors or utility-grade collectors can get contracts signed and get ready to build for the next season if we wait until March, it may be too late and we might lose a year, so I’m trying to move this right along,” he said.

While solar power may be the energy source of the future, there is concern that without regulation there will be an overflow of solar panels. Roof-mounted solar panels, as well as those mounted on walls, won’t need to go through the planning board and can be approved through the building permit process.

Cliff adds that every town will be tasked in facing this issue in the near future.

“The state is pushing in favor of solar collection and we want to be proactive to make sure that if we have solar collection that it doesn’t go of the map which you look at Spice Creek with about 400 homes and have 350 solar collectors in the back yard and no future swing holes and no future kids playing in the backyard.”