Newburgh spells out solar-energy system rules
Hudson Solar partners with Ron Bittner to help him go solar in Newburgh, New York.
NEWBURGH – Ron Bittner rotates his laptop computer to show a screen filled with virtual gauges and bar charts.
On this day, the 10-kilowatt solar-energy system Bittner installed six years ago in his backyard is generating more electricity than he needs, sending excess power to Central Hudson’s grid.
“Last night I was buying electricity, and now I’m selling electricity,” he said.
The clouds have parted not just for Bittner but for other Town of Newburgh residents eyeing solar-energy systems.
On March 23, Newburgh’s Town Board approved new rules governing rooftop and ground-mounted systems in response to a growing interest by homeowners in saving money and reducing carbon emissions from power plants.
While other municipalities allow solar systems, Newburgh and the Village of Maybrook are the only two who have adopted regulations governing location, size other details.
“I don’t think you ever make something perfect, but I think we’re doing pretty good with it,” Supervisor Gil Piaquadio said.
Newburgh’s law allows rooftop and building-mounted solar systems in all zoning districts; ground-mounted systems in all zones except R-3 residential districts; and permits solar farms and solar power plants in areas zoned industrial.
Ground-mounted systems are prohibited in the higher-density R-3 zone because of concerns about impacts on neighbors, Piaquadio said.
“It has to be on the roof only because we don’t want it shining into a neighbor’s window,” he said.
Newburgh officials also spell out permitting rules, minimum lot sizes, ground restrictions, setbacks and other requirements in the law.
They approved the law a few days after joining about 100 municipal officials at an all-day training on solar zoning organized by the county Planning Department and the Orange County Municipal Planning Federation.
“For all intents and purposes, I’m happy with the way the law is written,” Bittner said.
Between May and September, he generates more electricity than he consumes. Because of a radiant-heat system powered by electric water tanks, the opposite occurs during the winter, when he buys electricity.
Still, his overall electric costs are half what they would be without the system, Bittner said. It cost about $30,000.
“I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it,” he said. “More than anything else, I just would like to get off the aspect of an energy source that relies too much on polluting the atmosphere.”