Solar (photovoltaics), for the first time in our country’s history, will be our top single producer of new electrical capacity this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, beating out natural gas and wind.
Even though the amount of solar capacity is growing in the Centre Region, two dark clouds via College Township’s proposed solar ordinance seem to be looming on our horizon. As to the first one, despite repeated objections by local residents and area solar installation companies, and presentations of references, no exceptions would be allowed concerning roof-mounted setbacks, making it harder for systems to pay for themselves due to reduced capacity.
Another area of concern is permeability vs. non-permeability. The Tri-County (Harrisburg) and Cumberland County (Carlisle) areas use explicit language stating that residential and commercial use of ground mount solar “is not considered impervious cover.” But, the proposed ordinance states just the opposite for commercial facilities.
This deviation from proven, standardized norms, could unnecessarily dampen the growth of renewable energy in our region. True, if the local solar installers, in conjunction with area municipalities and fire safety officials, would have proactively sought to implement roof setback standards over the past couple decades, College Township officials could have had a leg up on that issue. Although these learning process snafu’s are now behind us, going forward, the wisest decision may be to begin the process over again from this point, and craft a sustainable document as equal partners, face-to-face.
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The last public hearing is Aug. 18.
Mike Rybacki, State College
Mike Rybacki is proprietor of Redstone Renewable Energy LLC.