By John Herrick, VTDigger.org
Towns and solar energy developers have reached a temporary compromise over how to better locate solar energy projects across the state.
The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee unanimously approved an amendment to the state’s renewable energy bill, H.40, that puts in place statewide solar setback guidelines and requires regulators to consider local screening standards when permitting solar arrays.
Senate President pro tem John Campbell, D-Windsor, drafted the amendment. Campbell said he believed more solar projects should be built in Vermont, but towns should have a say in how they are built.
“A few people who are not good stewards of the land could ruin it for the entire industry,” he said.
The bill includes setbacks from property lines ranging from 25 to 100 feet for projects larger than 15 kilowatts. Setbacks from municipal and state roads range from 40 to 100 feet.
The bill also includes safeguards to prevent towns from blocking solar developments. The local screening requirements cannot prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting development, according to the bill. The Public Service Board, a quasi-judicial regulatory body, would consider these restrictions when reviewing energy project permits.
The provision would be added to the renewable energy bill, known as RESET, that puts in place mandatory renewable energy targets for the state’s utilities.
The bill also gives towns automatic party status in the Section 248 permitting process. Currently, towns must petition to be a party in the permitting process.