Amherst Town Board asks for draft law to regulate solar energy

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB)- The Town of Amherst may soon change the way it regulates solar power.

Town Board Member Ramona Popowich said solar panels are growing in popularity and they want to make sure the right regulations are in place.

Solar Liberty is afraid, however, changes could affect their business.

“We are a little bit concerned when we see an overall trend,” said Paul Lavoie, general counsel to Solar Liberty.

Solar Liberty has seen nearly half a dozen towns across Western New York, like Eden and Wheatfield, adopt restrictions or temporary bans on solar panels.

“Enacting ordinances for solar that are far stricter than other kind of outbuildings like a shed or a barn or that sort of thing,” said Lavoie.

The company is now asking the Town of Amherst to allow it to help as the Town Board reconsiders its laws.

Residents currently apply to install solar panels through the building department. The applicant explains how large they will be, how they will be angled and how they will be wired. Applicants have to follow building code.

The Town Board said with the growing demand, there also needs to be a town law regulating solar installation. They want to protect the character of the town and make sure solar energy resources are being used efficiently.

The Board passed a resolution Monday asking town officials to come up with a draft law within 90 days.

Solar Liberty said it doesn’t see a need for significant changes.

“We need to recognize the current laws and not try to limit solar but push for more solar and growth,” said Nathan Rizzo, Solar Liberty vice president.

Popowich brought the idea to the table at the recommendation of the Energy Conservation Citizens Advisory Committee and said it’s not meant to discourage solar. The town uses solar panels on some of its buildings.

The building commissioner told News 4 the town is currently transitioning to a new state residential code that already includes new solar energy regulations. It takes effect in October. If the Town Board decides to move forward with a draft law that’s more restrictive, it would need to petition the state.

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