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Bright idea: Afton Planning Commission moves solar array ordinance forward

Afton continues to keep on the sunnyside of life. 

After months of work, Afton Planning Commission officially gave the green light to a proposed solar array ordinance during its Aug. 3 meeting. Afton City Council reviews the proposal tonight (Aug. 18).

Planning Commission’s approval came after a public hearing, which featured zero comments. 

“There isn’t any public here,” Commissioner Judy Seeberger said. 

The topic of solar arrays has been a topic of discussion in Afton for many months after Afton City Council directed Planning Commission to look into the matter following several inquiries. 

Afton does not have any regulations related to solar arrays, but several residential systems are already in use within the city. 

A solar array – a collection of solar panels – can generate and supply electricity in commercial and residential applications as a form of renewable energy. 

In both commercial and residential, the excess electricity can then be sold to the electric utility provider.

The new ordinance 

The proposed solar energy ordinance regulates solar array through a number of requirements: 

  • A residential array cannot exceed 40 kilowatts.
  • Roof-mounted systems shall not be higher than 24 inches above the roof.
  • Ground- or pole-mounted systems shall not exceed 20 feet in height.
  • Solar energy systems must meet the accessory structure setbacks.
  • Within the Village Historic District, solar arrays are allowed to be a size of 150 square feet.
  • Within the rural residential and the agricultural districts solar arrays are allowed at: a size of 300 square feet, not screened, on lots up  10 acres; a size of 1,000 square feet, if full screened, on lots up 10 acres; a size of 300 to 500  feet on lots of 10 to 20 acres, if not screened; a size of 1,000 square feet on lots of 10 to 20 acres, if fully screened; lots of 20 acres or more can have arrays of 300-750 square feet if not fully screened; arrays with a square footage of 2,000 square feet are allowed on lots of 20 acres or more as long as they are fully screened. 
  • Solar farms are only allowed in the Industrial District. 
  • Required permits include a building permit and an electrical permit. 
  • A conditional-use permit is required for all solar farms.

Next up

The proposed solar energy ordinance will next go to City Council for approval at its August meeting. 

“Nice job to the staff in putting this together,” Commissioner Sally Doherty said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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