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New regulations shine light on solar system installations

At its meeting Aug. 10, the Wildwood City Council approved new regulations related to roof and ground-mounted solar panels and how requests for installations are processed.

Solar energy systems mounted on rooftops of buildings and dwellings create little impact, but the ground-mounted types create a list of potential problems, including visual intrusions and tree removal actions, according to the city’s planning department. Those impacts relate to concerns about visibility, aesthetics and tree removal, which have been common topics at public hearings, since the expanded regulations were adopted by the city council in 2014.

Ground mounted solar
Ground mounted solar panels (Source: Adobe Stock)

In the last six years, there has been an influx of new proposals for solar energy systems, the city has said.

On July 20, the city council held a public hearing and determined that solar energy systems have a greater impact on surrounding properties than other allowable accessory structures and must be considered on a case-by-case basis in some instances.

Joe Vujnich, director of planning and parks, noted the three major changes in the regulations.

“Most of the conditional use permits that have been granted by the Planning and Zoning Commission have required a landscaping component,” he said. “Landscaping was not mentioned in the current regulations. We’ve now formalized that and memorialized it in the regulations so individuals can be aware of it as they go into the process.”

In addition, the new regulations now require that a concerted effort be made to ensure that any fire district involved in a solar energy system installation has an opportunity to comment on it.

Lastly, restrictions have been added to include the disposal of equipment once it is no longer useful.

“We’re now looking at components to ensure that when a system reaches its end of life, we know where it’s going, not just anywhere, but to an appropriate facility, so it’s a sustainability component and protecting the environment,” Vujnich said.

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