Amend Section 4.07 of the Town's Zoning By-Law to allow Accessory Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Installations
Petitioner: The Department of Planning & Community Development; Co-petitioners: Blake Cady; David Lescohier, TMM11; David Lowe, TMM11; Scott Englander, TMM6; Willy Osborn.
Special Town Meeting, November 2019
Zoning By-Law Amendment to permit accessory Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Installations under certain circumstances.
If passed, this proposed Zoning By-Law amendment would allow for ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations in the Zoning By-law, which currently prohibits them outside of two municipally-owned properties: a portion of the municipally-owned transfer station site on Newton Street and Singletree Hill Reservoir just south of Route 9. The proposal does this by adding text specifically allowing ground-mounted solar systems to Use 61, which describes allowable accessory uses. The amendment does not change any setback or other siting requirements for accessory buildings and structures in the zoning by-law, and further, adds a minimum 25 foot setback from all lot lines by requiring adherence to site plan review and other use regulations described in Section 5.06.4.h(3-13). Accessory ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations would be limited to 50 kWdc and any system larger than 10 kWdc (a footprint of roughly 460 square feet) would require a special permit.
Solar modules have significantly increased in power and decreased in cost over the last 10 years, and solar projects are increasingly regarded as both desirable investments and a tangible way for individuals and organizations to address global warming. Brookline homeowners and businesses are allowed to put solar modules on their roofs, but many are prevented from doing so because of poor roof orientation or shading from trees or buildings. This amendment expands the solar options available to property owners by allowing the installation of ground-mounted solar systems anywhere a small outbuilding or other accessory use structure might be sited, such as to the side or rear of a house.
Given the Town's commitment to prioritize planning to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (no reliance on fossil fuels), we should be doing everything reasonable and possible to encourage property owners to reduce their carbon footprints. Ground-mounted solar is a proven technology that has great potential for emissions reduction and as such should be permitted by the Town. If the Zoning By-law allows accessory structures such as sheds and out-buildings, there is good reason to also permit accessory ground-mounted solar systems.
The proposed zoning by-law amendment protects against excessively large installations by limiting "as-of-right" (without special permit) ground-mounted systems to 10 kWdc, approximately the footprint of two parking spaces. The capacity limit of 10 kW would accommodate up to approximately 30 330-watt solar modules, on racks attached to the ground or acting as a canopy over vehicle parking. It would also allow for the installation of more innovative and efficient systems such as dual-axis trackers on high-strength pole supports. With power levels of 330 watts per module, a 30-module system could produce on average about 1,000 kilowatthours per month - a supply of clean, carbon-free energy that could more than meet the electricity needs of a moderately-sized house.