North East’s Solar Law Encourages Residential Solar

In 2018, North East enacted a set of regulations for installing photovoltaic (solar) power-generating equipment in the Town. Placed within Local Law 3 of 2018, “A Law to Regulate Solar Energy Systems,” they are intended to encourage the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in the area while making sure solar installations are sound, safe, and durable, and are assets to the community. This law is in response to section 263 of the states’ Town Law, which encourages “the accommodation of solar energy systems.” 

In addition, the Town has adopted the state’s Unified Solar Permit that streamlines the building and electrical permitting processes for solar installations. Find a copy here.

The new law points the Town firmly in the direction of renewable energy: “The use of solar energy equipment for the purpose of providing electricity and energy for heating and/or cooling is both a necessary and priority component of the Town of North East’s current and long term sustainability agenda. It is also part of North East’s commitment to be a ‘climate smart’ community.”

The law regulates building-mounted and ground-mounted systems, generally for residences and small businesses, and “solar farms”—commercial-scale systems on agriculture-zoned land that sell power through the utility grid, also known as “solar power plants.”

The Village of Millerton does not currently have a solar law.

Summary of North East Town Law #3 2018

Find a copy of the law here, and the Town Board resolution here. The following is a summary of the law, to save you time. It is no substitute for the law itself.

Work must be performed by a qualified solar installer, have a special Solar Energy Building Permit, and pass multiple in-use inspections for a year.

Building-mounted systems

  • Includes building integrated PV systems and solar carports
  • Solar panels on pitched roofs must be parallel with the roof angle with a gap of no more than eight inches
  • The installation must comply with fire emergency-responder rules

Free-standing or ground-mounted systems including carports for two motor vehicles or less

  • Minimum lot size of 1.0 acre 
  • Installation must not encroach on sensitive areas such as steep slopes, floodplains, prime agricultural land, wetlands, streams, or 100-year and 150-year floodplains, or violate any conservation or agricultural easement
  • May not be placed in a required front yard
  • Must be screened “to the extent practicable”
  • Lower than 12.0 feet in height
  • Power lines must be underground “to the maximum extent practicable”

Solar farms 

  • May be considered on sites between 10 and 30 acres
  • Must satisfy stipulations in subparagraphs (a) through (r), which are beyond the scope of this website to summarize
  • Must provide a performance bond or make other arrangements with the town

If you’re starting to think about a solar farm, a good place to start is Scenic Hudson’s How to Solar Now ToolKit, which includes maps that detail the suitability of acreage in Dutchess County and elsewhere in the state for solar installations.  Find it here.