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June 21, 2011
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Pitkin County considers regulation of solar panels, glare

ASPEN - Pitkin County commissioners will take up the county's proposed regulation of solar panels, and a ground-breaking attempt to regulate glare, again on Wednesday.

The regulations have been the focus of several discussions and a tour last month, during which commissioners viewed several arrays around the county and talked to a pair of homeowners who related their experiences with glare from neighboring properties.

The county has found little guidance in its attempt to address glare, according to staff planner Mike Kraemer, who has drafted the regulations. It's not something other jurisdictions have attempted to deal with, he said.

"No one else in the country is regulating glare. That's why we're in the dilemma we're in," he said. "We're kind of pioneering this thing."

Glare would be addressed in the nuisance section of the land-use code, with an addition that reads: "The glare effect produced by light reflecting from an object shall not create an unreasonable adverse impact with an intensity and duration sufficient to cause a nuisance."

The language is subjective, Kraemer concedes, and it doesn't apply strictly to solar panels. The county attorney has advised the staff that glare in general can be addressed, but the rules can't apply solely to solar panels, Kraemer said.

If glare creates an unreasonable off-site impact, mitigation may be required, including vegetative screening or repositioning the offending object, according to the proposed regulations. When glare is determined to be a nuisance, the property owner who erected the panels is responsible to do something about it - a requirement urged by a pair of Old Snowmass homeowners who have been affected by panel glare on both the front and back sides of their home.

The proposed regulations allow panels to extend 4 feet above a pitched roof and up to 6 feet above a flat one. Ground-mounted panels would be limited to 12 feet in height (the cap is 10 feet in the county's existing regulations) and public notice to neighbors within 300 feet would be required for solar panels that exceed 400 square feet.

Some commissioners have suggested the notification be required of all installations, regardless of size.

"I think that's going to warrant some discussion," Kraemer said.

The goal of the notification is to foster discussion between installers and neighbors before the panels go up, in the hopes of addressing glare before it happens, he said.

The proposed regulations for solar farms require an annual report on the operation of the project, including its power output.

The commissioners will meet at noon on Wednesday; the solar panel regulations are the last item on their agenda.


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The Aspen Times Updated Jun 21, 2011 01:05PM Published Jun 21, 2011 01:03PM Copyright 2011 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.