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Solar energy soon will come with stipulations in Whitehall

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Those looking to mount a solar panel on their roof as a new avenue to provide electricity to their home in a residential Whitehall neighborhood soon could have rules to follow.

A draft of an ordinance nearly a year in the works, outlining regulations for solar energy equipment, was presented to Whitehall council members in the last week.

A public hearing is scheduled for April 16 at 8 p.m. to discuss regulations that will serve as an amendment to the municipality's zoning ordinance. If there are no objections, council could vote that night on the regulations, borough Manager James Leventry said.

“This industry has a tremendous amount of potential for growth,” said Greg Winks, 53, of Whitehall, a clean energy specialist with Clean Energy Resources, which serves as an advisor for institutions on clean energy options, who helped borough officials draft the ordinance.

Whitehall leaders reviewed ordinances from neighboring towns, and patterned the ordinance after one from Upper St. Clair, Leventry said. The borough's planning commission added Whitehall tweaks to it, he said.

“It was their attempt to be proactive with it instead of having to deal with it whenever it did, if it did,” Leventry said.

“I think it will keep little solar things from popping up out of the ground,” Councilwoman Kathy DePuy said. “Yes, there's some things in there that I don't quite agree with, but I think it works.”

The ordinance puts regulations on solar energy systems that would be mounted on a building: requiring them to conform to building height requirements and be uniform with the building. The ordinance prohibits the use of freestanding solar energy systems in the borough, something Winks said he would like to see modified before final passage.

For those looking to install solar energy systems, it helps them do it in the right way, “so it does not happen haphazardly,” Winks said.

The ordinance that includes changes to Whitehall's zoning laws is being submitted to the Allegheny County Planning Commission for review.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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