Ohio town to retool solar restrictions after community advocacy


This August, citizens and solar installers in Granville, Ohio took a stand against local ordinances that would put up significant barriers to distributed rooftop solar. A vote was to be held on August 17, but after hearing the concerns of residents who wanted to support clean energy in their town, the Granville Town Council decided to delay the vote.

Councilmember Laura Mickelson said the town expects to make a decision later this year, and the Council is currently engaging with solar industry members and citizens to build a plan that better supports the town’s transition to clean energy.

As solar has gained in popularity in the town, the Council set out to create a formal set of building codes and regulations that would help retain the historic character of the village. The initial public hearing led to two concerns being raised by citizens related to glare and solar on one-story buildings. These concerns led to a ban of solar installations on one-story buildings and installations that were deemed to cause glare.

Solar advocates pushed back on these ideas in the August hearings, arguing that glare is a subjective phenomenon that would be difficult to regulate. Plus, glare from solar panels is significantly lower than other common surfaces like steel, glass, and water. After all, the point of solar panels is to capture sunlight, not reflect it.

As for the single-story restriction, solar advocates found this to be far too prohibitive, and not representative of the personal desire of its residents. Jeremy King, a Granville resident and director of sustainability at Denison University determined the village is home to 1,589 structures, 535 of which are single-story homes. Another 154 are deeded as one-and-a-half stories. Over one-third of buildings would therefore be banned by the original draft of the ordinance.

A revision to the ordinance is now underway. Sustainability experts Power Clean Future Ohio are advising alongside interested residents. The cohort is actively researching other midwestern towns’ solar policies. While the visual aesthetic impact of solar panels was codified in the original draft, the new draft is instead focused on safety.

“Aesthetics is not a criteria,” said resident Ken Apacki, “Trying to decide if something looks nice is too hard, too vague. We need to look more at physical measures that regard safety.”

Apacki and his cohort aim to advise a new ordinance that eliminates ambiguities for applicants seeking permit approval from the Commission. Specifically, the cohort seeks changes like not requiring Commission review if panels don’t face the street and enabling streamlined permitting of residential ground-mounted systems.

Village manager Herb Koehler said it goal of the new ordinance, expected to be released to the town this year, will try to find a balance between the historic quality of the area while supporting sustainability goals.

“We hope that Granville will focus on becoming a solar community,” said resident Carol Apacki. “People should be encouraged to do so. We need to become a more resilient community with the looming threat of climate change.”

The story of Granville, Ohio is an example of how advocacy at the local level can make a significant impact on the buildout of clean energy. The Department of Energy offers resources and training for boosting solar power in your community.

Learn more about DOE’s local solar policy support initiatives here.

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