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Aurora advances alternative energy regulations

AURORA – The City Council will vote Tuesday on proposed zoning code changes that would modify regulations for solar and wind energy systems.

City planner Tracey Vacek said the intent of the regulations is to encourage the use of new alternative energy technology while minimizing neighborhood impact.

Consultant Leslie Oberholtzer of Farr and Associates, a Chicago-based planning and architecture firm hired by the city, said zoning code re-writes for alternative energy are increasing across the country.

“It’s a utility. It’s becoming no different than an air conditioning unit,” Oberholtzer said.

Citing the evolution of the satellite dish, Alderman Mike Saville said he expects wind and solar energy systems will only get smaller.

Alderman Rick Lawrence, however, said that the systems distract from the architecture of older neighborhoods. “The neighbors have to look at those things spinning around,” he said.

Alderman Allan Lewandowski said homeowner’s associations could place additional regulations on system installations. But Lawrence noted most older neighborhoods don’t have homeowner’s associations.

Wind, solar regulations

Few regulations now exist for alternative energy systems.

“We need to get something in place so nothing wild happens,” said Alderman Rick Mervine.

In residential areas, free-standing wind devices would only be allowed in side and back yards. A wind device blade must be at least 10 feet from the ground. A lot must be at least 10,000 square feet for a freestanding wind energy system.

Freestanding system maximum height is 60 feet tall in a lot less than 30,000 square feet; 80 feet in a lot between 30,000 and 129,999 square feet; and 100 feet tall in lots larger than 130,000 square feet.

Residents may install one roof-mounted wind turbine for every 750 square feet of roof space.

A wind turbine system cannot exceed 55 decibels in residential areas and 60 decibels in other zoning areas.

Under the proposed regulations, freestanding solar power systems could be up to 15 feet tall and be installed in the side or back yard of a lot. The freestanding system must be set back 10 feet from property lines.

Single-family residential lots that are 30,000 square feet or less may install 100 square feet of solar panels in a yard; lots with other zoning would be allowed to have an unlimited amount of solar panels.

All lots may have solar panels attached to a home or other structure. A roof-mounted system must be less than 5 feet tall.

In addition to the roof, proposed regulations will allow solar panels to be installed on the side and rear of a building, and in some cases, the front.

Alternative energy systems will require planning approval by the city.