Jacksonville Exploring Solar Panel Ordinance

By Benjamin Cox on July 14, 2021 at 10:33am

The City of Jacksonville is exploring an ordinance to govern home-operated solar panels in the corporate limits.

The City Council heard from City Planner Brian Nyberg about some of the problems that the city could possibly face with the implementation and eventual de-commissioning of solar panels on private property in the corporate limits.

Nyberg says he has a model ordinance from Illinois Solar for the council to look at for consideration. Nyberg says that several current businesses like Lincoln Land Community College, Pathway Services, and other residential solar panels will have to be looked at: “So, this is either just small [panels] up on top of a roof or small ones in the back yard. There is already some that are on the ground that are in the corporate city limits, and we did not have an ordinance prior to that. We will have to see the plans [at businesses], but Wal-Mart already has them on top of their building and [the city] did get to see that plan prior to them putting it in. It was actually a really good plan. I think solar power is a good thing, we just want to make sure that it is done right.”

Nyberg says several questions have come before the Historic Preservation District about use of the panels in recent months: “There is language in [the model ordinance] as far as what sides of the roof they can do it on. It’s got to go in front of the Historic Preservation Society. Some of the language in there is how high up they can be, that they have to be certain distance from the roof, and they have to follow the pitch of the roof, too. A lot of them, you can actually see that they are pitched differently than the roof. Specific to the Historic District, there are a few more stipulations and restrictions that you’ll have to abide by.”

Nyberg says that the whole country is behind on recycling and decommissioning of panels. He says he’s done some research and believes that the state will eventually catch up to Europe and other countries that have had solar power as a part of their grid for awhile: “What we put in the language was that you have to follow the state regulations as far as solar energy system recycling and disposal. Right now, as far as the majority of the states in the U.S. especially Illinois, there’s really nothing as far as disposal or recycle. I have done a little research and other countries are way ahead of us right now. I assume that within the next 2 to maybe 5 years that the restrictions [on disposal] are going to start happening because the lifespan of most panels are 20-30 years, and we are in that end-cycle for a lot of them. I think we are going to see a problem coming up in the near future, and I think the states are going to solve the disposal problem for us. We will just add that language once it’s made into our ordinance.”

The model ordinance will be up for possible consideration at a future city council meeting.