New developments in Watertown would have to put up a solar energy system if the zoning amendment heard by a Town Council subcommittee is adopted by the full Town Council.
Watertown would become the first community in Massachusetts to require solar energy systems on new developments, Ed Lewis, the Town’s Energy Manager, told the Economic Development and Planning Committee Tuesday night.
Other communities and the state has come up with proposed ordinances, but none has enacted them, Lewis said.
Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said it is nice to be leading the way.
“I’m excited to be the first in the state to require solar on buildings,” Piccirilli said. “It is pretty impressive for a small town.”
The author of the original solar requirement proposal was resident Jocelyn Tager. She and other supporters of the solar requirement applauded when the subcommittee voted to recommend the amendment go forward. Tager said the effort has been a long one.
“In 2016, (Councilor) Susan Falkoff asked me to write a solar proposal for the RMUD (Regional Mixed Use District). That went no where,” Tager said. “Last September, (then Councilor) Aaron Dushku asked this to be considered by this committee.”
Then, the question of whether a solar requirement could be added to Watertown’s zoning ordinance was posed to the Town’s attorney, who said that it could go forward.
Under the proposed amendment, new developments, or renovations requiring a site plan review, will have to devote at least 50 percent of the solar-ready zone of the buildings roofs to solar panels, and in the case of a parking structure, 90 percent of the top level must be covered by solar panels. A solar-ready zone is the the area oriented between 110 degrees and 270 degrees of true north, and it excludes the mandatory access or set back areas required under the Massachusetts Fire Code. In the case of a flat roof, the entire roof would be considered a solar-ready zone.
The requirements would apply to developments of 10,000 sq. ft. or more of gross floor area, or with 10 or more housing units.
There are exemptions if the solar-ready zone is shaded more than 50 percent of the time, or if the building does not have load capacity for a solar array.
The amendment would also allow for solar arrays to be placed on land not covered by a building, and it would not add to the properties building coverage or impervious cover.
The subcommittee voted 3-0 to ask the Town Council to move forward with consideration of the solar requirement amendment. If the Council does move it forward, the amendment will go to the Planning Board for its recommendation before coming back to the Town Council for final approval.