I attended the Town & Country Board of Aldermen meeting tonight because I saw that the proposed solar panel ordinance was on the agenda. The ordinance has been in the works for a while, and I've thought several times about trying to get involved in the process, but did not feel I had the time. It's a bit late now that the ordinance has come before the Board, but I had the evening free, so I went.
Some of what I learned was encouraging, some not.
A lot of effort, research and good will has gone into the drafting of the ordinance, and I applaud it. What's particularly encouraging are the words that begin the ordinance: "Whereas, the Board of Aldermen wishes to promote the use of Solar Energy Systems..." The ordinance represents an effort to streamline the process a homeowner must follow to get permission to install panels, and that's also to the good.
What's not good is that the ordinance still requires the homeowner to get a conditional use permit, and the implication, expressed in several ways, that panels are unsightly and it's the homeowner's responsibility to shield them from sight. Panels, according to the ordinance, can only be put on rear or side-facing roofs, or if ground-mounted, must be shielded from the neighbors and the street.
During the meeting, time was given for citizen comments. Former alderman Al Gerber spoke in favor of removing these restrictions, as did the Babbs, a couple from Clarkson Valley who were mentioned in a previous blog post. I had not planned on standing up, but did anyway, and here's an improved version of what I said:
I'm here to speak in favor of solar energy. It's great that Town & Country wants to promote alternative energy, and this ordinance is a step in the right direction. However, we can do a better job of encouraging solar energy by removing two hurdles that this ordinance puts in its way: the conditional use permit requirement, and restrictions on the panels' placement. Anything that adds to the paperwork, increases the regulatory burden, makes panels more expensive or slows their installation in any way, hinders rather than hastens their adoption.
Missouri gets 82% of its electricity from coal, so it's likely that if power isn't coming from a solar panel, it's coming from coal, which pollutes when it's mined, transported, stored and burned. The solar energy we might have gained but did not because of the hurdles we put in its way, is just more pollution coming out of the smoke stack. That stack may not be in our backyard, but it is somewhere, and the environment is feeling its ill effects.
Please make solar panels easy and affordable.
READ RELATED STORY: Solar Panels: Town and Country Puts Guidelines in Place