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Swansea to revise solar panel, wind power zoning laws

SWANSEA – A Zoning Revisions Group has been formed to look at the ever-growing popularity of solar and other types of green energy in town.

At present, a solar farm is being proposed on Baker Road. The School Department is looking to add solar panels to all its buildings. Even the Swansea Mall has expressed an interest in solar energy.

“There may be some others interested,” said Town Planner Steven Antinelli.

Thus far, all pursuing green energy options are interested in solar panels. There has been no interest in wind turbines.

Antinelli said the group, which is not an appointed committee, is working to revise the current bylaws to include wind and solar energy.

The Zoning Revisions Group consists of Antinelli, Town Administrator James Kern, Town Counsel Arthur Frank, Building Inspector David Betts, Conservation Agent Colleen Brown, Zoning Board members Charles Reed and Rick Kirkpatrick, and local engineer Jim Hall.

Antinelli said the bylaw revisions would need a vote at Town Meeting next year.

Solar energy has become increasingly popular since the state enacted a solar rebate program in 2007. Tax breaks and other incentives are being offered to those who have solar panels installed. Other benefits include energy savings and lower electric bills. A big draw has been that customers can sell energy back to the electric company, in this case National Grid, or to other entities.

Baker Road resident Timothy Cabral proposed adding 2,200 solar panels to his property at a recent Planning Board meeting. The issue will go before the Conservation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.

The School Committee recently heard a proposal from Solar Energy Hub, a solar developing company, that would lease 86,000 square feet of roof space and 30,000 square feet of ground space at the schools for solar panels. The Committee voted unanimously to issue a request for proposals to learn about competitors.