Nash OKs backyard solar panels

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Ground-mounted solar panels like this have been approved for Nash County residents as long as the sunlight-to-energy arrays are placed in backyards.


Staff Writer

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Nash County Board of Commissioners has approved residential ground-mounted solar panels as long as residents keep the sunlight-to-energy arrays in their backyards.

The board voted earlier this week to amend county regulations allowing smaller scale solar installations designed to supplement the energy requirements of individual homes or businesses located on the same property by permitting roof-mounted, integrated and ground-mounted accessory solar panel arrays in all zoning districts subject to proposed development standards.

Ground-mounted accessory solar panel arrays must be located either behind the rear line of a principal structure, such as a residential dwelling, or a minimum of 50 feet from the house and 200 feet from the front property line if a house sits at the back of the property, the board determined. The rule is more strict than state regulations, which state an array can't be in the front yard.

The difference is the Nash County rule eliminates side yards. County Attorney Vince Durham said the board might be challenged in court, but nothing forbids commissioners from passing a regulation that is more strict than a state one.

The amendment will mitigate the potential impact of these accessory solar panel arrays on adjacent properties by limiting the maximum allowable land area and height of the arrays, requiring minimum separation distances between the arrays and other structures or the surrounding property lines, ensuring that the arrays do not impair road access sight distances and requiring visual screening for commercial or industrial arrays when appropriate, according to Nash County Planning Director Nancy Nixon.

Personal solar panel arrays don't require fences like solar farms because personal arrays are designed to shut down when disrupted.

Roof-mounted solar panel arrays have been previously permitted by the Nash County Planning and Inspections Department under the provisions for “customary accessory uses and structures.” However, the ordinance currently makes no specific provision for ground-mounted accessory solar panel arrays.

This amendment proposes the adoption of new standards for smaller scale solar installations designed to supplement the energy requirements of residences or businesses located on the same property.

Large scale solar farm requirements are not affected by the proposal.

No one spoke during a public hearing on the matter. Nash County's Planning Board and Technical Review Committee recommended approval of the amendment.