Solar panels in countryside.

Thanks to a recent change to city code, some Andover residents will be able to install larger solar arrays on their properties. 

The City Council approved a modification to city code to allow lots with at least 3 acres to install solar energy systems up to 1,200 square feet.

The amendment passed March 2 and applies only to ground-mounted systems. Now landowners with large enough lots can put in ground-mounted solar up to 1,200 square feet, or the footprint of the primary structure on a property — whichever is smaller. The previous code only allowed up to 400 square feet.

“Based on information that had been provided to us by consultants and by some residents, to put in place a system would require getting over 1,000 square feet, up to about 1,200 square feet, of panels on a ground-mounted system to be cost effective,” City Administrator Jim Dickinson said.

Ground-mounted solar arrays are considered accessory structures, which the city limits by the footprint of the primary structure. Limiting the solar panels that way was to maintain consistency with other accessory structures in the city, Dickinson said.

Solar energy systems are still not allowed in front yards, but now can be installed in a side yard, if they meet other requirements. Lots under 3 acres can still install solar, but the 400-square-foot limit remains in effect.

The issue was brought before the council during a Jan. 28 work session, after Cedar Creek Energy applied to install solar panels in a residential district.

Council members discussed concerns over how the solar panels could affect the aesthetics of a neighborhood, in particular how the arrays could impact neighbors with problems such as glare.

The discussion started at possibly allowing the arrays on lots as small as 1 acre, but the council ultimately decided on 3 acres as the limit, according to the meeting minutes. Three acres is considered the cutoff for the size of lots where the city aims to maintain a neighborhood aesthetic, Dickinson said.

Dickinson said if there is enough interest to further change regulations around ground-mounted solar, the council may take another look at the regulations.

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