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Wind and solar energy rules proposed in Tewksbury

TEWKSBURY – The township is considering new rules on solar and wind energy facilities. Alternative energy is becoming more popular as a way to reduce utility bills but also as a source of energy when the public power grid fails.

A public hearing will be held on Sept. 9 on two ordinances.

One ordinance deals with small wind energy systems.

The stated purpose of the ordinance is to promote the safe, effective and efficient use of small wind energy systems to reduce the on-site consumption of utility-supplied electricity.

The ordinance would establish standards for the installation and operation of such systems.

Under the proposed rules, wind systems would be permitted accessory uses in the Mining, Research Office/Mixed Use and Farmland Districts where adequate lot size standards will facilitate reduction of off-site visual and audible impact. Only one tower would be allowed on each lot and they cannot be more than 100 feet tall. It would also have to be a monopole.

The ordinance spells out where on the lot the tower may be placed and what safety features are required.

If a wind powered generator is not used for a year it would be deemed abandoned and must be taken down.

The other ordinance covers solar energy systems.

Solar would be a permitted accessory use in the Lamington District, Farmland Preservation District, Piedmont District, R-1.5 Residential District, South Oldwick Residential District, Village Residential District, Village Residential-1 District, Village Business District, Village Office District, Research Office/Mixed Use District and Mining District.

Under the proposed rules, systems could be mounted on the roof of a building or on the ground in some districts, and only on a roof in others. Parking lot canopies could also be used in the Research Office/Mixed Use and Mining districts.

Solar or photovoltaic energy systems would have to be installed in as inconspicuous and unobtrusive a manner as reasonably possible. A roof-mounted system would serve only the lot where it is located.

Site plan approval would be required for parking lot roof canopy-mounted systems with several requirements.

Ground-mounted systems would only be allowed as accessory to a principal permitted use and would serve only the permitted principal structure and accessory buildings located on the same lot.

Nonresidential and commercial agricultural ground-mounted systems would require site plan approval.

If a system is not used for a year, it would be deemed abandoned and would have to be removed.

The ordinance also spells out safety provisions including leaving space on the roof for firefighters to ventilate in case of a fire. An emergency response plan would have to be provided, filed and maintained with the appropriate fire companies and emergency squads. Training would also have to be provided by the owner of each facility on at least a bi-annual basis if requested by emergency service providers.

The fire department would have to inspect the site before a certificate of occupancy could be provided.

The hearing on Sept. 9 will start at 7:30 p.m. at the meeting hall in Mountainville.