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Kure Beach Adopts Alternative Energy Zoning Amendment

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KURE BEACH - In April the Kure Beach Town Council held a public hearing on amending the Town's zoning ordinance to govern alternative energy including solar panels and wind generators. The Council directed the issue back to their Planning Board for additional adjustments.
At the Council's May 15, meeting they approved an updated ordinance incorporating some issues raised by the Council in April.
The proposed ordinance provides standards to facilitate use of solar energy equipment in a manner that minimizes visual impact and the potential for nuisance, includes provisions for setback and height requirements compliance, supplies definitions for roof mounted and ground mounted systems, provides permitting, replacement and repair guidelines and prohibits the use of solar wind systems.
Local resident Bob Ginsberg said he has equipment for alternative energy and asked if the ordinance included a grandfather clause for existing equipment.
Galbraith said, "We didn't address the grandfather clause in here because I think there's only about three systems right now in Kure Beach and I'm not sure any of them would be out of conformance with the recommendation."
He said the Planning Board is aware of advances in technology such as solar shingles and possibly future solar paint to capture the suns rays to generate electricity.
Galbraith said, "If you notice we concentrated on the idea of 110%. So this whole ordinance deals with solar systems that generate under 110% of the beneficiaries’ requirement for energy consumption. I should point out this would apply not only for residential but also commercial structures to."
He explained, "The expectation of what we talk about is anything over 110% would be prohibitive. Those are actually commercial type systems and the 110% is kind of the standard out there for ordinances. There probably should be a statement at the end the definition that systems that generate more than 110% of the beneficiaries requirements for energy consumption are prohibitive."
He said, "What we are trying to do it prohibit basically solar farms that are out there."
He said if you generate over 500%, it falls under the definition of a utility company with the state of North Carolina.
Galbraith recommended language to prevent people from installing systems on any structure other than a primary residential or commercial building instead of inadvertently allowing people to put four posts in the ground and install solar panels or other equipment.
Councilman Heglar said if he has something on his property and wants to change something, "I'd like to be able to keep it."
Heglar said, "I think we should send it back to P&Z to incorporate the grandfather clause that was discussed as well as the chair of P&Z wanting to define ground mounted systems. I propose that we send it back."
Heglar said he felt the 110% should be increased to 150% to keep up with advancing technology. He explained, "As an electrical engineer I think 150%, as fast as technology changes could easily be something that happens. Especially when you couple that to the fact that housing energy usage should be going down. I think you'll see an increasing ability to produce and a decrease with usage with new technologies that both of those make that pretty tight with 110%. I would recommend 150%."
Council member Emilie Swearingen said Galbraith mentioned a concern for solar farms.
Galbraith said, "I think that is what we were talking about. Because if we prohibit anything over 150% as a definition, to prohibit anything over 150% that would eliminate solar farms. Unless at some future date someone were to come in and apply for one then we could deal with it at that point in time."
The Council voted unanimously to return the proposed ordinance amendment to Chapter 19, to the Planning Commission to address incorporating a grandfather clause for existing solar systems, define ground mounted systems as any system not installed on the primary residential or commercial building and prohibit systems generating above 150% of the owners consumption requirements rather than 110%.
At the Council's May 15, meeting Galbraith explained the Planning Board met again and addressed Council's concerns and made changes to the proposed ordinance.
He said, "I believe there were four basic recommendations. Change 110% to 150%, basically say solar farms are not allowed in Kure Beach and basically any existing system prior to adoption of this ordinance is allowed to exist unless they replace almost 50% of equipment."
He said the board added language permitting future advancements in building materials such as solar shingles  which would not be limited as long as they were not reflective but would still be held to all other standards.
Galbraith said a Raleigh based company came to speak to the Planning Board saying wind farms were not that loud and spoke of their positive aspects.
They indicated they would attend the May 15 meeting, but were not present.
Galbraith said in anticipation of their presentation he obtained research proving solar wind farms are excessively noisy and while they may be suited for large farms with many acres, they are not suited for a small beach town with much higher residential density. If a company wishes to locate in Town in the future, they can always seek approval from the Town Council at that time.
The Council voted unanimously to adopt the zoning amendment.