QUEENSBURY — The Town Board will limit where ground-mounted solar panels can be placed, but the new law won’t interfere with an effort to put solar arrays on closed landfills.
The board voted 4-0 Monday to institute a six-month ban on ground-mounted solar panels while the new law is drafted. Board member George Ferone was absent due to a death in the family.
Under the moratorium, no commercial or residential ground-mounted solar projects will be allowed in town until Feb. 5.
“Is this going to interfere with putting solar on the dumps?” asked resident George Winters, the only person who commented at the public hearing on the moratorium. “I believe solar on the dumps would be ideal.”
Both former dumps in town — one owned by Glens Falls, one by Queensbury — are closed and have a vast expanse of grassy space that could be used for solar arrays. But planners must make sure that the foundations of the panels would not break through the caps under the grass.
Older equipment was not safe over the caps, officials were told in the past. But now the state and the EPA are looking into the possibility of using capped landfills with newer technology.
They just started the process of considering the Queensbury landfills and Supervisor John Strough said engineering would take much longer than the six months of the moratorium.
“That’s going to take some time. I expect we’ll have some kind of law in place before that gets proposed,” he said. “Last I heard, they were looking into connectivity — if National Grid substations are needed.”
The law being considered by the board would not stop solar arrays on the landfills. The board wants to institute a setback requirement so that landowners can’t place the panels at the very edge of their property. There, the panels can block the view of adjacent residents.
Board members are considering a 50-foot setback.
Brent McDevitt, a town Zoning Board member and a founder of Apex Solar, has said that would be an “over-correction” and proposed 10 to 20 feet.
Apex Solar is at the heart of the issue because the Queensbury company installed a 16-foot-tall, 50-foot-wide solar panel at the edge of a residential property on Haviland Avenue. Neighbors live close together in the tight neighborhood and complained to the town about what they call a “wall” and compared the solar panel to a drive-in movie theater screen.
It is longer than a letter of the Hollywood sign in California, and one-third as tall.
The solar panel can be seen from three residential streets, and three neighbors live so close that it reflects a blinding light and casts shade on their property. One neighbor is so close that he was able to plant a tree that will shade the entire panel in about 10 years, assuming normal growth.
Complaints from the neighbors led the Town Board to enact the moratorium and begin drafting a law.
Strough said the ground-mounted panel was too intrusive on the neighborhood.
“I think his lot was a little small for ground-mounted solar,” he said. “But if we have a bigger setback, 50 feet maybe, we eliminate that problem.”
The town can’t do anything about the Haviland Avenue solar panels because they were installed prior to any law restricting their construction.