Clifton Park may increase solar panel regulations
CLIFTON PARK The town’s first free-standing solar array has prompted officials to consider beefing up oversight on green energy devices.
Todd and Beth Silaika’s “solar shed,” installed at their home on Addison Way last month, caused a stir in a nearby neighborhood, with neighbors behind the property complaining to the town about the 80-by-20-foot array.
“Obviously, when we put in our solar panels it was not with the intention of upsetting people,” Beth Silaika said. She said when the leaves are on the trees in the woods behind their house no one will see the panels.
The family has a 4-acre yard and placed the solar shed 55 feet from the rear property line, much farther than the current regulations required.
“We were doing stuff to try and make it less obvious for the people that live behind us,” she said.
But as the dial turns backward on their electric meter since the array was plugged in two weeks ago, town officials are considering requiring an extra step for future homeowners who want to save on their electric bills by installing free-standing solar arrays.
The Town Board plans to hold a public hearing at 7:20 p.m. Monday on a proposed zoning law change that would require homeowners to get a special-use permit for ground-level solar panels.
“It’s a new thing,” Town Attorney Thomas McCarthy said of solar panels. Those installed on house roofs and in commercial zones wouldn’t be affected by the change.
McCarthy said no municipality in Saratoga County has specific requirements for solar panels, so Clifton Park could be the first.
Currently, homeowners need only a building permit to put up solar panels that are attached to poles or on the ground.
Building inspectors make sure the structure is sound and that the electrical components are inspected, and then issue a permit, but don’t have authority to consider the larger impact of solar arrays on neighbors.
“This would require a Planning Board review and a public hearing,” McCarthy said of the proposed change. “It would require that the Planning Board get plans and they’d consider whether or not to grant it.”
Ground-level solar panels are being constructed on a property off Bradt Road in the town as well, McCarthy said.
He said town officials had considered addressing wind turbines in this proposal, but are deciding at the time being to leave them out. No town property owners have wanted to put up windmills yet.
The changes wouldn’t affect the Silaikas, who followed the rules to install their array.
“They’re not coming down,” Beth Silaika said. “They’re paid for and they’re working, so we’re just happy that they’re working so well.”