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Elkhart Truth: Goshen, IN solar proposals may not see light of day; Want to use NIPSCO feed-in tariff; Part 1 of 2 June 26, 2012

Posted by Laura Arnold in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), Uncategorized.
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:

This is Part 1 of a two-part story from the Elkhart Truth concerning zoning variance requests in Goshen, Indiana for proposed solar PV systems. There has been a great deal of interest in the NIPSCO electric service territory by customers to install solar PV systems to use the NIPSCO feed-in tariff. Customers who install solar PV systems from 5-10 kW may sign a contract with NIPSCO under the feed-in tariff program to receive $0.30/kwh for a 15 year contract. The NIPSCO feed-in tariff pilot program was approved 7/14/2011 and is scheduled to run until 12/31/2013.

I t appears there is a need for a serious conversation amongst consumers, solar installers and planning officials in NIPSCO-land to address these issues.

See Part 2 of 2 for the results of the Goshen BZA hearing.

Laura Ann Arnold

Solar installations in Goshen continue to grow, but two of the three requests before the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday may not happen because of zoning codes.

by: Justin Leighty

jleighty@etruth.com

GOSHEN — What do free-standing solar panels, a shed, a porch and garage all have in common? In Goshen, the same zoning requirements apply to all of them, which is why two proposed solar installations may die today, June 26.

There are a total of three solar panel requests coming to the Goshen Board of Zoning Appeals, but only the one that’s an expansion of an existing solar setup got a recommendation from the city’s staff, and that one’s mounted on a roof.

The number of solar installations is growing. There are roughly 10 in the city right now, according to the building, planning and zoning departments. “One of the reasons they’re becoming more prevalent is NIPSCO’s incentive to buy back electricity,” said Rhonda Yoder, city planning and zoning administrator.

“A lot of places, they just get attached to a roof,” Yoder said.

Two of today’s requests, though, seek to have ground-mounted panels in the middle of neighborhoods.

Ryan Smith, assistant planning and zoning administrator, wrote in his notes to the board, “while the planning and zoning office supports solar energy and alternative energy in general, and the 2004 comprehensive plan encourages the exploration of solar as a source of renewable energy as a means to fossil fuel reduction, this does not exempt the installation of solar panels from standard zoning consideration as an accessory structure.”

He notes that state law prohibits cities, towns and counties from unreasonably restricting solar energy, but the law allows for some general regulations.

“While no specific provisions for solar panels in terms of Goshen’s zoning ordinance are currently in place, the planning office’s preferred configuration for solar panels are flush-mounted on building roofs,” Smith wrote to the board. That gives the best access to the sun and minimizes the glare and visibility of the panels, he explained.

Yoder said any free-standing panels “are treated as accessory structures. Total accessory square footage has to be less than the first-floor square footage” under the existing ordinance.

In the case of 520 Ryegrass Court, where Jeremy Comment, Fofoa Finau and Jamie Yoder-Zingo want to install panels, the fact that the home is a split-level home means that the garage and proposed solar panels would be larger than the first floor of the home, even though the solar array itself is smaller than the first floor. Smith recommended that the board deny the request, but suggested that a smaller set of panels would fit better in the neighborhood.

The situation at the home of Jeff and Chris Kauffman at 923 S. 14th St. is tighter, with a detached garage and porch already taking up more space than the home. Smith suggested the board deny that request, too, but proposed that the Kauffmans could put solar panels on the roofs of the garage and home.

That’s the case at Owen Hess’ home at 506 Carter Road, where solar panels already exist on a pool house roof. The proposal, which got Smith’s approval, would add another five feet of solar panels above the existing ones.

———————————————

Please find below the staff reports regarding the solar PV system variance requests for the Goshen BZA meeting 6/26/2012:

Information provided by:

Ryan Smith

Assistant Planning & Zoning Administrator

Goshen City Planning & Zoning

204 E Jefferson, Suite 4

Goshen, IN 46528

(574) 534-3505 ex. 285

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Comments»

1. Solar Installation NJ - June 27, 2012

Solar panel installation will be booming; give it a few years. The economy needs to get to an equilibrium between fuel burning resources and green resources, in terms of the electricity and energy market currently.

-Sharone Tal


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