Centreville talks solar arrays, fees
CENTREVILLE — As the Centreville Town Council waited to vote on an ordinance that would allow the installation of ground-mounted solar array systems, the town council discussed with Zoning Administrator John Fury during its Thursday, July 7, meeting the fee structure to be associated with such a solar system.
With the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education attempting to install 1,350 panels at Centreville Middle School and 7,146 panels at Queen Anne’s County High School, the town council drafted Ordinance 062016 which would allow a ground- or ballast-mounted “solar collection system” by a special exception through the Board of Appeals. The total estimated value of the middle school project is $566,000 and is $2.9 million for the high school, Fury said.
After researching Queen Anne’s, Anne Arundel and Kent counties, Fury presented three options for fee scheduling: charge a flat fee based on the number of arrays, use an estimated value of a total project based on a sliding scale, or charge per kilowatt hour.
Fury said if a 600-plus array system were installed in Queen Anne’s County, a flat fee of $2,500 would be charged. That same system in Anne Arundel County, Fury said, would create fees in excess of $20,000 based on the total value of the project.
The total footprint of the panels would be 39,000 square feet at the middle school and 147,783 square feet at the high school, Fury said.
From a planning and zoning standpoint, Fury said the building inspections will be comparable to a larger commercial building in terms of man hours spent inspecting.
Of the three methodologies suggested by Fury, Town Councilman Jim Beauchamp said he believed Kent County’s charge per kilowatt hour was the most sustainable way to evaluate the fee.
“Who knows, in a couple of years a panel this big may put out what monsters put out now,” Beauchamp said. “But if we go by rated capacity that will stay as a constant relationship to the user’s value they’re going to get out of it.”
Town Council Vice President Tim McCluskey, who said he believes the town will receive more requests for building array permits than ground-mounted permits, had no problem charging a higher fee. “It’s all about what does it look like from a long-term standpoint,” he said.
If the solar array ordinance were to pass — it’s available to be voted on during the town’s Thursday, Aug. 4, meeting — interested parties would need a special exception from the Board of Appeals. Other requirements include providing site plans, demonstrating a stormwater system within all county and state requirements, mitigating any forest removed during construction, providing a detailed landscape plan of the area and showing all solar arrays conform to local, state and national codes.
Once constructed, the ordinance states that any cleaning fluid needed for the solar panels be biodegradable; broken panels be removed from the site within 60 days; and a maintenance agreement to replace plantings and viability of the landscaped buffer be provided.
To remove an abandoned solar panel or piece of equipment, the Board of Appeals will determine a bond amount required to assure removal. The ordinance considers any “solar energy power generating system” that isn’t running continuously for 12 months as unused and in lines for removal, though the Board of Appeals has the power to grant an extension. Parties removing equipment must notify the town and are required to restore the property to its original condition, the proposed ordinance states.
Centreville Zoning Administrator John Fury speaks to the town council about various methods of fee scheduling for ground mounted solar arrays.