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Renewable Energy Solutions 

One would only need to take a quick look at recent international, national and local news to understand the need to support and promote efforts to provide renewable energy sources in our region, our country and the world.

Internationally, Europe is facing one of the hottest, if not the hottest, summers on record.  Nationally, in California people are suffering from yet another summer of wild fires.

Locally, concerned citizens are fighting the CPV power plant demanding that plants such as these be eschewed in favor of renewable energy sources (curiously, these same people who object to CPV do not seem to be making much of an effort to encourage municipalities to actively seek and promote development of solar farms in their respective communities).

Solar energy generation takes many forms in New York State.  You will need to do some research and ask the right questions to determine what form is right for you and your community.

  1. Solar On Your Roof – There are many companies selling and installing solar in the area. Anyone considering using or purchasing solar should check the company’s references because with solar companies, like any other business, some providers are great, most are good, and a few are bad.  Once you have chosen the correct company, the next decision to make is whether to purchase the solar panels outright, using tax incentives made available both by the state and federal government, or lease the solar system.  Depending on your financial status and available cash both can be attractive options.
  2. Solar installation in your yard. Once you choose a company they may advise you that you do not have the right exposure for solar on your roof.  If that is the case, you can consider solar in one of your yards.  Most but not all municipalities allow such installation as an accessory use to a single family home, especially in the rear and side yards.  Prior to installation, however, you should check with your municipality to determine what, if any, approvals you would need for such installation.
  3. Community Solar – If neither your roof nor areas on your property are suitable to provide solar, you can consider purchasing community solar. There are many companies now developing larger community solar development (maximum size of 5 mw per property) in various areas throughout the state.  In order to develop a community system, the service provider must obtain land use approvals from the individual municipality and then obtain authority to connect to the power grid.  Once that authority is granted, the community solar provider can offer for sale to individual property owners’ electricity from solar to anyone living within the various services area (i.e. Central Hudson, NYSEG, O&R, etc.).  Many municipalities have become hesitant to approve such facilities, many times succumbing to misconceptions and fears.  There may be some properties that are environmentally sensitive that may not be appropriate for solar development.  Municipalities should, through the planning process, adopt clear zoning laws that include appropriate conditions to preclude those sites from being developed for solar.  In addition, communities should take pro-active actions to determine where the appropriate infrastructure exists that can accommodate interconnections from solar developments and direct solar providers to those areas by providing a streamlined approval process.  In addition, the zoning law should employ a planning board when review site and subdivision plans to require steps be taken to promote use of solar.
  4. Leasing from a solar company – Anyone considering leasing panels from a solar company should have representation to ensure that any lease protects the landowner’s remaining property, is clear on payment of taxes and rollbacks, provides for decommissioning of the solar facility when the lease ends, and generally protects the long term interest of the landowner.

Having said all that, it is vital that we all understand and work together locally, nationally and internationally to promote renewable energy sources and say yes to solar.


John C. Cappello is a partner practicing Land Use/Environmental and Municipal Law. He can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.

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