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Solar panels to dot roof of home in Sewickley historic district

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Solar panels might have little historic significance but soon, they'll dot the roof of one home in a historic Sewickley neighborhood.

Council members last month approved allowing homeowners Andy and Dorothy Falk to place solar panels on a portion of their home at 304 Henry Ave.

“Solar panels are not historic,” borough Solicitor Richard Tucker said.

But there is no formal policy limiting the use of solar panels inside a historic district, Manager Kevin Flannery said.

“It's the first time solar panels have been proposed for a house in a historic district,” he said. “No one thought about solar panels when they drew up historic guidelines.”

Guidelines and requirements are listed for solar energy systems and related equipment, Flannery said. Based on borough ordinances, the homeowners have met all requirements, he said.

Solar panels will be on the roof facing an alleyway, Andy Falk said. An original plan called for panels to be placed facing Henry Avenue, but the borough's Historic Review Commission asked that the panels be relocated away from the street.

The home was built in 1910, according to Allegheny County real estate records.

Should borough leaders consider limiting solar panel use in a historic district, the Falks would be grandfathered in and wouldn't have to make changes to suit any new laws, council member Susan Aleshire said.

Across the country, California leads with the highest number of residential solar panel installations this year, according to the Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association.

Pennsylvania ranks ninth.

The organization estimates that new solar electric capacity added in 2013 will generate enough electricity to power more than 960,000 homes.

The federal government and several states — including Pennsylvania — offer rebates for homeowners who install solar panels.

More than $2 million remains in Pennsylvania's rebate fund, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The rebate program is expected to end in December.

Council member Carole Ford said she hopes borough leaders consider looking into ordinances as the use of solar energy increases.

“We still need to look at policy for solar panels in historic district,” she said.

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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