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Environment & Energy

Model Ordinance to Streamline Solar Panels Installation Offered to PA Municipalities

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A model ordinance and zoning code for solar power installation on homes and small businesses, which was one year in the making, is now available for all municipalities to consider with the hope that it will lower barriers residents and businesses face when looking to install new systems. The SunShot Rooftop Challenge initiative, funded by the US Department of Energy and coordinated by PennFuture, involved 24 local governments in Allegheny and Beaver counties including Upper Saint Clair, Pittsburgh, and Monaca.

The organization that helped bring all of the communities together was the University of Pittsburgh's Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT).  Executive Director for CONNECT, Kathy Risko, said the model ordinance breaks down many barriers of installing a solar energy system, including filing multiple forms.

"Removing those barriers means it's more likely that people will consider installing solar panels," Risko said.  "Hopefully this will be occurring in all these different municipalities."

Currently, PennFuture Project Manager Sharon Pillar said most Pennsylvania municipalities have no regulations for solar energy systems.

"The municipalities don't know really what to ask for or how to regulate the systems," Pillar said.  "Sometimes [the municipalities] are not protecting themselves or their residents, or in many cases they're over regulating and asking for things that are burdensome, particularly on the permitting process."

Pillar said because of that, more time and money is spent on installing a solar energy system on homes and businesses than necessary. 

Monroeville already adopted the model ordinance and zoning codes, but the group isn't stopping there.  Pillar said PennFuture is now looking for a second round of funding for SunShot Rooftop Challenge #2 .

"We're looking for municipalities to participate in that project to consider the ordinances, and the permitting process, and also an online permitting process that we're looking at," Pillar said.