The Coon Rapids City Council amended the city’s solar ordinance last month to allow solar energy systems as a principal use on large parcels and catch up with modern technology.

The solar ordinance was initially adopted in 2014, sustainability planner Olivia Dorow Hovland said.

“Since then, technology and best practices have changed,” Dorow Hovland said.

The city had 16 new solar energy systems added last year.

Council Member Wade Demmer said the ordinance update will align more with modern solar technology.

“It fit at the time, but since then technology has gotten better, options have gotten better,” Demmer said. “This aligns well to what’s allowed in other cities, so it’s a good opportunity to at least behind other cities in what we allow our residents to do.”

The ordinance allows solar energy systems on any parcel size as an accessory use, and parcels larger than 20 acres can have solar energy as an accessory or principal use — which is a change from the previous version of the ordinance, Dorow Hovland said.

The community-scale solar energy systems on 20-plus-acre parcels will require conditional use permits.

“This would allow them to have a ground-mounted system as a principal or accessory use that has a larger footprint and isn’t constricted by the size of the structure on the site,” Dorow Hovland said.

The ordinance allows for flat-roof-mounted systems to go beyond a given district’s set height limit by up to 6 feet. The city also set limits for solar carports at 15 feet in residential and 20 feet non-residential areas.

The amendment requires all abandoned systems to be removed within 180 days.

Community Development Director Grant Fernelius said the amendment gives developers the opportunity to create solar gardens as a primary use on land.

“We think it’s a good strategy to try and accommodate solar on a larger scale where it makes sense in our community,” Fernelius said.

Council Member Kari Rehrauer applauded the measure, saying it would draw people to move to Coon Rapids and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

“I see it as a win-win,” she said.

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