County Planning Board supports Gaines’ solar energy regulations

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 May 2019 at 5:46 pm

GAINES – The Orleans County Planning Board on Thursday voted in favor of proposed regulations from the Town of Gaines for solar energy systems and solar farms.

Gaines has proposed regulations for ground-mounted and roof-mounted solar projects. Large-scale projects which are greater than 4,000 square feet of lot coverage are allowed in Residential-Agricultural and Commercial districts, but are subject to site plan review.

The large-scale projects aren’t allowed in the Commercial Historic District, which includes the Cobblestone Museum.

The solar projects need setbacks of at least 100 feet from the front of a road (120 feet on Ridge Road), and 15 feet of side and rear setbacks.

Projects that are 40,000 square feet of lot coverage or more will require a special use permit from the town.

Those larger projects also have front setbacks of at least 100 feet (120 from Ridge Road). The side and rear setbacks are a minimum of 50 feet.

Solar farms (primarily for off-site use) will require the following:

• Minimum lot size of 3 acres for systems with 4,000 square feet or more of lot coverage;

• Site plan review required for systems with 4,000 square feet or more of lot coverage;

• Special use permit required for systems with 40,000 square feet or more of lot coverage;

• Minimum requirements for lot size, setbacks, lot coverage and height;

• Fencing for mechanical equipment;

• Vegetated buffer for screening;

• Signage identifying operator contact information and voltage warnings;

• Glare prevention;

• Operation and maintenance plan;

• Abandonment and decommissioning, which stipulates that large-scale solar energy systems or solar farms will be considered abandoned after six month without electrical energy generation, and must be removed from the property. Developers of the projects need to have  decommissioning plan for how they will remove infrastructure, and remediate soil and vegetation. The developer will be obligated to remove all ground-mounted solar collectors, structures, equipment, security barriers and transmission lines, and also needs to dispose of any solid or hazardous waste in accordance with all state and federal regulations.

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