Henrietta is the latest Monroe County community to pass laws that regulate residential, business, and commercial solar projects.
Solar is already alive and growing in Henrietta. Some residents have roof-mounted arrays; a few big-box retailers and warehouses have solar power systems; and the Rochester Institute of Technology has a 6,100-panel system next to its Henrietta campus. Some companies and farmland owners have also shown interest in building larger solar farms to generate and sell electricity.
The town didn't have laws directly addressing solar power systems, big and small, until the Town Board adopted the new codes in June. Board members wanted to make sure the town got ahead of the projects, says Supervisor Jack Moore.
The laws allow rooftop residential systems anywhere in town, and they allow freestanding small solar-energy systems in commercial, industrial, and rural residential districts. Property owners just need a building permit.
Developers who want to build installations larger than 1,000 square feet, however, can only do so in industrial and commercial districts. And they have to get a special-use permit from the town Planning Board.
During a public hearing prior to the law's approval, Henrietta resident Jack Finnegan asked officials to let farmland owners put large systems on their property, which would add an income source. But the board "felt that we wanted to keep our residential and agricultural areas as pristine as possible," Moore says.
Other towns restrict larger solar farms, too. Brighton doesn't allow solar arrays to serve as a property's primary use. And Hamlin, a more rural town, restricts large systems to low- and medium-density residential districts. It also sets a 20-acre minimum lot size for the arrays.