BANGOR –– The Town Board on Tuesday approved a local law regulating the erection of solar energy generating systems.
The 4-0 vote came without discussion after roughly six months of review and revision of the original proposed law and about 16 months after the board first proposed it. Councilman Barry White was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Councilman Joey St. Mary noted that the board members had repeatedly discussed the proposed changes at prior meetings.
The law, which is based on a similar law in place in the St. Lawrence County town of Madrid, governs all types of solar arrays –– those built into the walls or roofs of existing buildings, small-scale ground-mounted and freestanding collectors and utility-scale systems.
The law as adopted addressed several concerns about what some residents said were gaps in the regulations at a sometimes-spirited public hearing in August. At that session, residents voiced concerns about how close a solar array could be built to a residence and a property line and what guarantees the town would have to prevent the builder of a solar array from simply walking away from the project at the end of its usable life.
The original version of the law required ground-mounted solar collectors to be at least 150 feet from the nearest residence, but several people at the public hearing said they were afraid that provision would permit the construction of a solar array near the property line –– a location that could interfere with the future development of an adjoining property. The board initially considered setting the distance from the property line at 150 feet, but the law approved Tuesday requires solar arrays to be at least 150 feet from the nearest residence and at least 50 feet from the property line.
The change was an apparent response to NexAmp, the Boston-based company which at the time was exploring the possibility of building a 5 megawatt “community solar” array in the town, that sought a less stringent requirement.
The other key concern raised by residents –– the lack of requirements governing the decommissioning of small-scale solar projects –– was not directly addressed in the law. However the measure does require that any array not used for more than 12 months would have to be removed and gives the town code enforcement officer the authority to see that the work is completed within 90 days of the date the array ceases operation.
State law includes fines of up to $250 per day for a property owner that does not properly get rid of unused solar arrays.
The original law addressed the decommissioning of utility-scale solar arrays, including the requirement that the developer post a bond or provide some other method of ensuring the costs of taking down the array would be covered.