Consider solar farms

The proposed solar farm in Gloversville has helped shine a light on an issue in many municipalities: zoning laws that fail to keep up with the pace of technology.

Monolith Solar Associates is proposing a 1-acre solar farm on vacant land it would buy on West Eleventh Avenue, near the town of Johnstown border. The solar panel assemblies are anchored about 5 feet underground and rise about 9 feet into the air. They do not move, they do not create a glare and they do not make any noise.

The city has no solar farms, though the Common Council last month approved Albany-based Solar City’s plan to build one at the former landfill in the town of Johnstown – a deal that will net the city about $100,000 a year.

The problem is solar farms are not recognized by the city as an acceptable property use.

At this point, the company has a couple of options. The company can apply for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which would require demonstrating there is no other viable use for the property. The company also can petition the Common Council to change its zoning laws.

Mayor Dayton King has said Monolith has been invited to Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, where company officials can introduce the proposal to local leaders.

That’s a good start. The project sounds like it may be appropriate for the location.

We urge the council to seriously look at changing the zoning laws to allow solar farms. While there certainly will be many issues to consider – such as how far the solar arrays need to be from a neighboring property or home – other communities have found a way to accommodate solar farms.

It is understandable why this issue has come up recently. When many zoning laws were first put down, it is unlikely solar farms even existed. As solar technology has become more efficient, solar farms are being built in places that were never bothered with before.

This issue affects more than Gloversville. All local municipalities should consider allowing solar farms – if they haven’t done so already.

As solar power becomes more efficient and an option for more businesses and homeowners, it is up to municipalities to change their laws to reflect the rapid pace of technological advancement.

That is not an easy task. Lawmakers must balance the interests of all those who are affected by these proposals. Property owners, entrepreneurs and neighbors all deserve to have their concerns heard, and the law must reasonably protect them.