| Neighborhoods

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Officials create rules for residents who want to harness solar energy in Richland

Paul and Lena Lyle’s solar energy system at their Richland home.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Paul and Lena Lyle of Richland currently claim the township's only backyard solar energy system.

The Lyles bought the system — a rectangular array of ground-mounted solar panels — about three and a half years ago after they met a vendor at a home show.

They installed the system through Energy Independent Solutions of McKees Rocks.

“We generate probably 30 to 40 percent of our electricity through that,” said Paul Lyle, a plumber. “It's been working pretty well for us.”

The Lyles' solar energy system sits on a treeless, south-facing slope behind the couple's 100-plus-year-old farmhouse on 3.5 acres next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

They spent about $25,000 for the system, after receiving federal tax credit and state grant money.

“It's tied directly into the house's electric system,” Lyle said. “When that's not enough, it draws from the public grid.”

Lyle and his wife, a business analyst, still rely on Duquesne Light Co. to fully satisfy power needs of their all-electric home.

Daily Photo Galleries

North Hills Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Richland officials recently enacted rules for property owners who want to harness sunlight to heat and otherwise power their homes and businesses.

The new guidelines regulate the installation of solar energy systems as accessory uses in all Richland zoning districts.

“These (rules) are just for an accessory (use) — not to build a power plant,” said Charles Means, solicitor for Richland Township.

Richland supervisors unanimously approved the regulations after a Nov. 6 public hearing.

No one spoke in support or opposition to the ordinance, which amends Richland's zoning code.

Property owners now must get permission to install a solar energy system.

“You need a permit. You can't just say, ‘I think I'd like to have one,'” Means said.

The township's zoning department will process and issue permits, said Dean Bastianini, township manager.

Chatham University, which plans to use solar power on its Eden Hall campus in Richland, is among expected applicants for such permits.

The new ordinance sets forth rules for both ground-mounted and building-mounted solar energy systems.

Ground-mounted systems must meet the same setback requirements that apply to structures served by the systems.

“If the setback requirement is 10 feet, you can't put it (a solar energy system) any closer than 10 feet from the property line,” Means said. “If you're going to stick it in your front yard, in front of your house, then you have extra restrictions.

“You have to show that you've made an effort to screen this thing with either plants, or a wall, or landscaping, so you don't have 50 foot of glass panels sticking up in your front yard.”

Solar energy systems mounted on buildings “shall be permitted to extend up to six feet above the roof,” states the ordinance.

The ordinance sets 4-foot and 8-foot height limits for ground-mounted solar energy systems, depending on whether panels are installed at the rear or front of a principal structure.

“If you want to put panels on the ground, you have a height limit you have to worry about,” Means said.

The new ordinance prohibits advertising on solar panels.

“You can't put signs on these things,” Means said. “They're not supposed to be billboards.”

Means helped draft a model ordinance on solar panel installations for use by other Pennsylvania municipalities, as part of a project administered by the nonprofit PennFuture Energy Center.

“This was revised to work here in Richland,” Means said.

Richland enacted the ordinance “to avoid what's going on in other places, where there are arguments, debates and controversies because there is no set of rules and nobody knows what the rules are,” Means said.

“Now we have a set of rules and people can follow them with some confidence.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.




Show commenting policy

Most-Read North Hills

  1. NA grad formulates bath, beauty products with natural ingredients
  2. Move in age group nets dividends for Franklin Park tennis player
  3. Wexford Health-hosted program to raise awareness of food allergies
  4. Bridge work to close Little Pine Creek Road in Shaler
  5. Photo Gallery: Marshall Community Day
  6. Photo Gallery: St. Athanasius Parish Festival
  7. North Hills grad earns ‘principal of the year’ honor
  8. Storytelling festival events set for 2 Hampton sites
  9. Franklin Park woman honored by Lupus Foundation
  10. Drone to help Northern Regional police zone in on missing, fleeing people
  11. Developer of proposed Ross housing plan sues diocese