South Portland takes step to promote use of solar energy

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SOUTH PORTLAND — New zoning proposed by the Planning and Development Department could encourage the use of solar power across the city.

The Planning Board unanimously recommended the solar zoning amendments Tuesday night that would allow roof-mounted or ground-mounted solar panel systems in virtually all city zones, including residential.

Small-scale solar systems that generate 20 kW of power or less and meet other standards outlined in the ordinance would be “permitted anywhere,” Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser said at the April 12 meeting.

In mixed-use, commercial and industrial districts, larger-scale systems would be acceptable, subject to permitting required for installation.

Planning Board member Taylor Neff called the city’s solar zoning amendments “needed and much appreciated.”

The City Council will review the board’s recommendation in a workshop scheduled for Monday, May 9.

The city’s biggest proposed solar project to date is a joint venture with Portland to build a $2.6 million solar farm on the city’s capped landfill, off Highland Avenue.

The project would generate 1.2 million kWh of energy each year, and would offset about 12 percent of municipal and school energy consumption, Sustainability Coordinator Julie Rosenbach said in a March workshop.

Steve Hinchman, director of financing for ReVision Energy, told councilors at the workshop that solar power generated would offset the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1.3 million pounds, or 655 tons per year.

The installation of solar panels would no longer require Planning Board approval. In general, the new amendments would create fewer hoops to jump through and the process would be streamlined, Community Planner Steve Puleo said Tuesday.

Building standards would still apply. In residential zones, for example, roof-mounted solar power systems could not exceed the allowed height of the building.

The use of solar arrays and panels in specific zones are now listed as “special exceptions,” which means applicants are required to explain why solar panels wouldn’t create an excessive impact.

By including solar power in allowed uses, applicants “wouldn’t have the additional hurdle of demonstrating that they’re not creating impacts above and beyond the average (impact),” Haeuser said.

South Portland is one of several cities across the state advocating for increased accessibility to solar power. In a recent op-ed sent to several southern Maine news outlets, City Manager Jim Gailey encouraged the adoption of LD 1649, a bill now before the Legislature, that would “modernize” the state’s solar power policy and boost economic development.

Gailey called the bill “a new and creative way to bring reduced electricity costs to all ratepayers and help municipalities invest in sustainable, low-cost energy to benefit all residents.”

“South Portland is deeply committed to renewable energy solutions, and we are seeking a way to meet some of our energy needs with solar,” Gailey wrote.

“If, as a state, we want to have any chance of catching up with the solar job creation that other New England states are enjoying, and if we want to see solar panels on top of shopping centers and factories as well as homes,” he said, “we all need to support LD 1649 and demand that the Legislature enact this balanced solar policy.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.
  • spcitizen

    Solar?! This has the lowest return on investment of any energy projects except for wind turbines. The amount of electricity generated compared to the cost of installation is ridiculously low. So here is the recap of what Emperor Blake and his minions have done for SP lately. Huge legal fees fighting Portland Pipeline and Pan Am Railways, banned pesticides, banned shopping bags, legalized marijuana, banned propane, banned oil, giving away free electricity to Prius owning hippies, and the list goes on. This is not Berkely, California. It is South Portland, Maine. A once proud, hard working, blue collar city that has been ruined by an influx of pot smoking ultra liberal eco-terrorists led by Emperor Blake and Eben “Thorny” Rose.

    May Almighty God help SP.
    All hail Emperor Blake.
    spcitizen has spoken

    • Christopher Kessler

      What is your real name? Why hide behind an alias?

      • Chew H Bird

        Because using your actual name, unless you are already a public person with a public presence, is a very poor practice. Internet 101 best practices…

        • David Craig

          I respectfully disagree. People have signed their real names to letters to the editor for many years. These online comments in response to published news articles or letters to the Forecaster are no different. There are certain cases where such letters would be published anonymously in a newspaper, but these usually require some special circumstances making anonymity necessary. When people post anonymously, they don’t take the same level of personal responsibility for their words that they would if they used their real name. We’ve all seen how nasty anonymous online comments have become. It’s terrible for civil debate. “Internet 101 best practices” would have one protect their personal information with respect to passwords, financial data, etc. It is not a good excuse for posting anonymously.

          • Chew H Bird

            What you are describing is an assumption of anonymity on the part of the poster which may lead someone to comment in a manner less than civil.
            Associating a real name with an email address is a first step for compromising someone’s identity. Authors utilized pen names centuries ago and utilizing a screen name is no different. What has changed is how people perceive their voice when they communicate through online services.
            Although having a screen name is not “real” security, it is a first step for any person regarding best practices and good habits in protecting their identity from those who seek to do us harm. The vast majority of people using online services (through computers, cell phones, and tablets) have no idea about risk regarding their personal information. Just about everybody’s data has been compromised in some way or another through various forms of malware, spyware, and viruses, plus the well known compromising of data through major retailers, hospitals, governments, and the many thousands of smaller firms who are unaware of breaches.
            The real issue is human nature and perception of safety. Portals such as Disqus provide an easy target for cyber thieves and whenever anyone is on line the entire world is their next door neighbor.

          • David Craig

            Your online comments are always well thought out and civil. In other words, you are the exception to the typical anonymous poster.

          • Chew H Bird

            Thank you. I do my best…

          • pebble

            Adherence to a consistent “voice” would be the goal of an anonymous newspaper poster. The level of taking personal responsibility for their words is demonstrated through expression of their “voice”.

      • pebble

        Renowned Victorian era writers George Sand and George Eliot were actually women. “Chew H Bird” name is thought-provoking, creative.