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Tewksbury eyes new rules for solar and wind power

TEWKSBURY TWP.—With clean energy becoming a hot commodity, the Township Committee has introduced rules regulating the placement and use of wind towers and solar panels.

According to each ordinance, the purpose is to promote efficient energy while not disturbing the Tewksbury Master Plan and Development Regulations Ordinance.

The committee described the ordinances as a way to keep up with growing demand for clean energy, and to protect the town if someone tries to put in tall wind structures or solar panels. They often stressed that these ordinances will try to disallow for wind or solar farms in the township.

“There’s no downside,” said Committeewoman Dana Desiderio of the introduction of the ordinances. “You see it so much with solar parks. You need to have something that is in place. Having nothing is the wrong thing to do.”

A public hearing will be held Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Wind Ordinance

According to the ordinance, wind energy is a renewable, nonpolluting energy source that could decrease air and water pollution; small wind energy systems will enhance the reliability and power quality of the power grid; it reduces peak power demands; and helps diversify the state’s energy supply portfolio.

According to the ordinance, the use of small wind energy systems will be permitted only in the Mining, Research Office/Mixed Use, and Farmland districts of the township.

Committeeman Peter Melick called some of the districts not permitted as “the windiest spots in town,” but they are not allowed, because they are not in the right zone.

Mayor Shaun Van Doren said putting wind turbines in some districts, such as the Highlands, would be “out of place and out of character.”

Although it stresses the importance of renewable energy, the ordinance also makes sure off-site visual and audible impact is consistent with the rest of the town’s ordinances.

Some restrictions of the small wind systems include: No more than one system per lot; systems shall not be located on front or side yard areas; towers shall be set back a distance equal to one and one-half times the total system height from all property lines, public roads, power lines, and existing buildings and structures; total system height shall not exceed 100 feet; and small wind energy systems shall be placed in such a manner as to minimize offsite visual impacts.

Solar Ordinance

Township Planner Carl Hintz said the solar ordinance would allow solar panels, depending on the circumstances, to be mounted on a roof, ground or between parking lots.

The solar panels would be an accessory use only to generate energy for a business or home, and not part of a solar farm.

According to the ordinance, the restrictions put in place for solar entities are needed to allow for such facilities to be installed in as inconspicuous and unobtrusive a manner as reasonably possible while balancing the need for electricity with the wider community interest of preserving and promoting the rural and historical characteristics of the township.

The ordinance goes on to explain where solar panels can be placed based on which district of the township they are in.

For example, in the historic district, solar panels are not to be visible from the public right away, according to Hintz.

Another restriction is designed to make it so solar panels only serve the lot on which they are located.