GEORGETOWN — The Georgetown City Council approved a zoning ordinance on Feb. 18 to allow for solar panels to be installed on various properties across the city.
Solar panels can now be installed on approved residential or nonresidential property, including places such as single family homes and shopping centers, though solar farms are not allowed due to lack of room in the city, said Angela Rambeau, director of planning and community development for the city.
Anyone looking to install a solar panel onto their property must have the appropriate licenses, too.
“If you're putting it on a roof, the panels can't extend above the peak. Any cord, any service boxes, anything like that, needs to be hidden from public view.” Rambeau said. “Basically the panels have to be integrated into the style of the building that they can be installed on. They should match the color of the roof, we want these to be as unobtrusive as possible.”
Alan Loveless, Georgetown’s director of electric utilities, said that in the last 2 years, the city has received more inquiries than before from citizens about taking advantage of solar energy.
In response to this, Loveless said the electrical department put together an interconnection agreement that would allow customers to install solar panels and operate them in connection with its system so that any unused energy generated could flow back onto the department’s system.
The recycling allows for customers to be compensated for the energy, Loveless said, to ensure that all customers are paying a fair amount, no matter if they have a solar panel on their property or not.
“Part of the cost that goes into the rate that we normally charge our customer is associated with our cost to purchase power, but then another part of what we charge customers is associated with our cost of owning and operating the distribution system," Loveless said. "So when a (solar energy) customer generates power on their property and puts it back on our system, we didn't want to compensate them at the same rate that they pay us because then we would be paying them for the cost of owning and operating our distribution system, which is included in our normal rate, and that's not fair to our other ratepayers. We will credit them at a rate that is comparable to what we pay for wholesale power.”
Rambeau said that the opportunity to invest in solar energy is good for the city, citing a mutual benefit of lower electricity costs and helping the environment.
“We welcome the opportunity to bring green energy to the city,” Rambeau said. “We try to make the lives of our citizens as comfortable as possible, so if this is an opportunity for them to get some relief from their utility bills and it's helping the environment as a whole at the same time, then we think that's a great opportunity.”
Georgetown residents can inquire about installing solar panels on their homes or other properties by reaching out to the electricity department at 843-545-4600.