Watertown became the first community in Massachusetts to require developments to have solar panels on their roofs.
Last week, the Town Council approved changes to the town’s Zoning Ordinance that requires developments of 10,000 sq. ft and more, or 10 or more housing units, to devote at least half the roof to solar energy system. The new regulation applies to new developments and renovations requiring a site plan review.
The Town Council unanimously approved the zoning amendment on Tuesday night. The amendment started as a proposal from resident Jocelyn Tager in 2016. Councilor Susan Falkoff said that Tager was persistent.
“I compliment Jocelyn Tager who never missed a chance to push this to the Council,” Falkoff said. “I feel very proud we are the first in the state, and we are taking a leading role.”
Ed Lewis, the town’s Energy Manger, said that the solar industry will also support local economic development.
“Solar systems are put in by local installers, and creates local jobs. They are not bringing in people from California,” Lewis said. “The other benefit is it will reduce dependence on fossil fuels. With fossil fuels, dollars leave the area.”
Lewis said that having a solar energy systems can be an attractive feature for a building or development.
Town Councilor Tony Palomba wondered if the new requirements would also apply to public buildings. Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said that that nothing in the amendment exempts public buildings.
Under the zoning, at least half of the roof area must be a solar-ready zone, which means the area is 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. For buildings with a flat roof, the entire roof would be considered a solar-ready zone.
In the case of a parking structure, the requirement for solar panel coverage is increased to 90 percent of the top level.
The new zoning has 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.
See more information about the solar requirement by clicking here.