Red Deer County firms up solar power regulations

New laws around solar energy tries to strike a balance between supporting green energy and not creating eye-sores, according to Red Deer County’s mayor.

County council approved new regulations around solar energy devices. Largely limiting the height of panels not attached to buildings and location on properties.

Regulations around location and height do not apply to agricultural lands in the county, which Mayor Jim Wood said was mostly because of location and visibility.

“We’re excited to see the solar industry within our municipality, we’re just trying to ensure we didn’t create some unsightly situations,” said Wood. “Especially within our more urban neighbourhoods.

“We wanted to make sure they weren’t too close to our roads in case we wanted to widen them one day.”

A public hearing, held on Feb. 20, led to changes to the height requirements on panels not attached to buildings, which were increased to 4.5 metres tall. That is similar to how both Lacombe County and Starland County have regulated the devices. It is also the same requirements the county has for accessory buildings.

The law also requires that devices not attached to buildings be located in either a side or rear yard.

Agricultural districts in the county are excluded from the 4.5 metre tall height and location limitations.

“We’re starting to see some solar within our community,” said Wood. “There are some that are completely off-grid. I can see solar will be a trend that continues to grow and its a great way to provide energy.”

Laws around solar devices attached to buildings say it must be integrated into a roof or wall structure and limit how much it protrudes from the roof or wall.

It also adds solar energy farm as a discretionary use in agricultural districts.

Coun. Christine Moore and Connie Huelsman were absent from the second reading of the bylaw amendment and were not allowed to vote on third reading. They were able to add comment to the discussion around the regulation. The amendment passed with unanimous approval from remaining councillors who were eligible to vote.

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