SOLAR ENERGY FACILITIES BY-LAW
1/31/17

SECTION 8 –SOLAR ENERGY FACILITIES (NON-RESIDENTIAL)

A. PURPOSE

The purpose of this section is to regulate the development of ground-mounted solar photovoltaic facilities (a “solar energy facility) by providing standards for the placement, design, construction, operation, monitoring, modifications, and removal of such energy facilities; to promote public safety; to protect and preserve farmland and open space as promoted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; to minimize impacts on the scenic, natural and historic resources of New Braintree; and to provide adequate financial assurance for the eventual de-commissioning of such solar energy facilities.

B. APPLICABILITY
 

This section applies to the installation of all ground mounted solar energy facilities that generate power utilized in part offsite from the installation location.  Specifically, solar energy facilities are permitted as follows:

1. One (1) facility with name plate capacity of 250kw or greater, sited “As of Right” on one             
selected parcel of Town-owned land, described in Subsection C.4.

2. Facilities with name plate capacity of 250kw or greater, sited by “Special Permit.

3. Facilities with name plate capacity of less than 250kw, sited by “Special Permit.”

This section also applies to future physical modifications that materially alter the type, configuration, or size of a solar energy facility or related equipment.  Facility sitings shall be limited in number and location, as described in Subsection C.4.  Solar energy facilities for the exclusive purpose of agriculture, with the power generated to be used on the property, are exempt from this Section in accordance with G.L. c.40A, s.3.

The Planning Board shall be the Special Permit Granting Authority.  No facility may have a solar panel (“solar array”) footprint greater than five acres, excluding the buffer zone area.

C. GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

1. Site Plan Review

All solar energy facilities, except for those explicitly exempted pursuant to Section B, shall undergo site plan review, including a public hearing, as part of the special permit process conducted by the Planning Board prior to construction, installation, or modification as provided in this Section.

2. Required Plans and Documents for Special Permit and Site Plan Review

a.   Plans showing existing conditions and proposed changes to the landscape of the site, grading, vegetation clearing and planting, exterior lighting, screening vegetation and  structures. 

3.    Operation and Maintenance Plan
The applicant shall submit a plan for the operation and maintenance of the solar energy facility.  The plan shall include measures for maintaining safe access to the facility in all weather conditions, storm water controls, vegetation controls, and general procedures for operating and maintaining the facility and surrounding areas of the site.

4.    Location and Dimensional Requirements

A.   Large Facilities:

a.  A Facility with name plate capacity of 250kw or greater, the solar array footprint not to exceed five acres, may be sited  “As of Right” on the following Town-owned parcel of land.

Location: An area of approximately 12.6 acres within the 2016 Assessors’ Map 408, parcel 408-104.1, abutting Town Barn Road, and West Brookfield Road

b. 

b. Facilities with name plate capacity of 250kw or greater, the solar array footprint not to exceed five acres, may be sited by “Special Permit.”

The total number of these large facilities shall be limited to six facilities in operation concurrently within the Town.  Included within this number are large facilities that have received a permit to operate from the Planning Board as of the effective date of this Solar Energy Facilities by-law.

All large facilities must meet the requirements of chapter IX, Section 4, of the By-Laws and Zoning of the Town of New Braintree. (Dimensional Requirement).

Siting Requirements: One of the following conditions must be met.

B.   Small Facilities:

Facilities with name plate capacity of less than 250kw may be sited by “Special Permit” subject to the requirements of this Section.
Set-backs:      
All facilities shall have front, side and rear yard setbacks of at least 50 feet for any      fencing that is required by the Planning Board.  Fencing shall be required to fully enclose the facility.  Solar arrays and related equipment shall have front, side and rear yard setbacks of a minimum of 100 feet.  In the event a front, side or rear lot line abuts one or more residences, the setback for that lot line shall be a minimum of 200 feet.  Setback from a public way shall be at least 200 feet.  A 50 foot minimum setback shall apply when the abutting parcel has the same owner and the same proposed use as that for the proposed facility.  The Planning Board may allow a lesser setback along a property line, where, in its judgment, the proposed facility is not likely to negatively affect an existing or permitted land use on the abutting property.  The Planning Board may require a greater setback along a property line, where in its judgment the proposed facility is likely to negatively affect an existing or permitted land use on the abutting property
Screening        
Where the front, side or rear yard faces and/or abuts one or more residences or a public way, a landscape architectural plan will be required.  The plan’s object shall be to minimize to the greatest extent reasonable the visual impact of the facility.  The plan shall show how, through the use of mature plantings, vegetation, berms, fencing, land contouring, and strategic placement of the solar panels and appurtenant structures, the facility will be screened from view from facing residences and public ways during all seasons of the year.
Appurtenant Structures 
All appurtenant structures, including, but not limited to, equipment shelters, storage facilities, transformers, and substations, shall be subject to the set-back requirements and vegetative screening requirements, as described in subsections 4. B to avoid adverse impacts on the neighborhood, abutting properties, and public ways.

C.  All solar energy facility installation construction must comply with Ch. 4, sec 1, a, b, c of the New Braintree By-Laws. 

5. Design standards

A. Lighting:  Lighting shall be limited to that required for safety and operational purposes, and shall be consistent with state and federal law. The lighting shall not be intrusive in any way on abutting properties, and shall incorporate full cut-off fixtures to reduce light pollution.

B. Signage:  The solar energy facility shall comply with the regulations for signs in Section 3 of this Bylaw.  A sign shall be provided to identify the owner and operator and provide a 24-hour emergency contact telephone number.  A solar energy facility shall not display any advertising, except for reasonable identification of the manufacturer, owner and operator of the solar energy facility.

C. Utility connections:  Where possible, all utility connections for the solar energy facility shall be located underground.

D. There shall be no increase in background noise measured A weighted at the property line or a noise-sensitive receptor (for example, a higher terrain location that may be impacted or a location with sensitive persons such as a school).  A noise analysis must be provided by the applicant and approved by the Planning Board.
                                               
E. The solar panels shall be positioned in such a way that there is no possibility of
glare on a residence or public way at any time during the day.

6.   Emergency Services
The applicant shall provide a copy of the operation and maintenance plan, electrical schematic, and site plan to the New Braintree Fire Chief and Police Chief.  The applicant shall cooperate with local emergency services in developing an emergency response plan which will ensure that emergency personnel have immediate, 24 hour access to the facility. This plan shall be reviewed annually with local emergency officials and revised as necessary.  Safety personnel may request at any time that the operator provide onsite training in accessing and shutting down the solar installation. All means of shutting down the solar energy facility shall be clearly marked.  The operator shall identify a qualified contact person to provide assistance during an emergency.  The operator shall update the contact information immediately, and so notify the New Braintree Fire Chief and Police Chief, whenever there is a change in the contact person.

D.  FEES

Upon receipt of an application for a special permit, the Planning Board may engage, at the applicant’s expense, professional and technical consultants, including legal counsel, to assist the Board with its review of the application in accordance with the requirements of Section 53G of Chapter 44 of the Massachusetts General Laws.  The Planning Board may direct the applicant to deposit funds with the Planning Board for such review at the time the application is accepted, and add additional funds as needed upon notice.  Upon approval of the application, any excess amount in the account attributable to the application, including any interest accrued, shall be returned to the applicant.

E. MONITORING AND MAINTENANCE

1.   Maintenance: The operator shall maintain the solar energy facility in good condition. Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, painting, structural repairs, integrity of security measures, and visual screening components.  The operator shall be responsible for maintaining adequate access for emergency vehicles and maintenance equipment throughout the year with an annual inspection by the Fire Chief and the Police Chief.
2.   Monitoring:  An operation and maintenance report is to be filed annually with the Planning Board no later than 45 days after the end of the calendar year, confirming that the operation is ongoing and has not been abandoned, and that the operation and maintenance plan is being followed.  Failure to file the report within the required time may be considered evidence that the facility has been abandoned and the Planning Board may take action as described in Subsection G.*   All modifications to the solar energy facility proposed after issuance of the building    permit which materially alter the type, configuration or size of the facility require approval of the Planning Board and Inspector of Buildings.  The Planning board may specify, in the special permit, specific kinds, or standards for, modifications which shall be subject to further approval.*   The applicant shall comply with any and all Federal, Massachusetts and Local installation and operation requirements, whether adopted before or after approval of a special permit.

F.  BUILDING PERMIT AND BUILDING INSPECTIONNo solar facility shall be constructed, installed, or modified without first obtaining a building    permit.  The application for building permit must be accompanied by the fee required for a building permit.

G. DISCONTINUANCE, DECOMMISSIONING, ABANDONMENT AND REMOVAL

1. Removal Requirements:Any solar energy facility that has reached the end of its useful life or has been discontinued, decommissioned, or abandoned, as defined below in Subsection G(3), shall be removed.  The owner or operator shall physically remove the solar energy facility within one hundred fifty (150) days after the date of discontinued or abandoned operations or the date specified in a notice of discontinuance or decommissioning in compliance with the requirements of the Inspector of Buildings.  The owner or operator shall notify the Planning Board by certified mail of any proposed date of discontinued operations or decommissioning and submit the plans for removal.
2. Removal:

Removal shall consist of:

a. Physical removal of all equipment from the site, including, but not limited to, the solar arrays, structures, appurtenant equipment, security barriers, and electrical transmission line above and below grade.

b. Stabilization or re-vegetation of the site as necessary to return the site to its original state, and minimize erosion.

c. Disposal of all solid and hazardous waste in accordance with local, state, and federal waste disposal laws and regulations.

3. Abandonment:
Finaizedl Bylaw Solar Energy FacilitiesAbsent notice to the Planning Board, as provided above in Subsection G(1), of a proposed date of discontinuance or decommissioning the solar energy facility shall be deemed abandoned if  the equipment is removed from the site, or if the operation of the facility is discontinued for more than one year.  If the owner or operator fails to remove the solar energy facility in accordance with the requirements of Subsection G (2) within one hundred fifty (150) days of abandonment or discontinuance or the proposed date of decommissioning, the Town, or its agent, may enter the property and physically remove the solar energy facility and restore the site to its original state.  As a condition of the Special Permit, the applicant and landowner shall agree to allow entry to remove an abandoned installation.  The Town’s cost for the removal will be charged to the property owner in accordance with the provisions of M.G.L. 139, Section 3A as a tax lien on the property.
    
H.  FINANCIAL SURETY


Prior to commencing operation of the solar energy facility, the applicant shall provide a form of surety, either through escrow account, bond or otherwise, in an amount determined by the Planning Board to cover 125% of the cost of removal of the facility and site restoration.  The applicant shall submit a fully inclusive estimate of the costs associated with removal, which shall be subject to review and approval by a qualified engineer retained by the Planning Board at the applicant’s expense.  The amount shall be increased annually to cover inflation, based on increases in the Consumer Price Index published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The amount of the surety shall be provided to the Planning Board every two years, no later than 45 days after the end of the calendar year, for a determination of whether it is still adequate or whether it shall be increased to satisfy increased cost estimates.  Such surety shall not be required for municipal facilities owned and operated by the Town.   

I.  INSURANCE (commercial solar facilities sited on Town of New Braintree-owned land)
Prior to commencing operation, the owner or operator of a solar energy facility shall provide the Planning Board, with a copy to the Town Clerk, with a certificate of insurance showing that the property has a minimum of one million dollars in liability coverage by occurrence in the aggregate or five million dollars general liability insurance in the aggregate, and that the Town of New Braintree is an additional named insured thereon.  Such a certificate shall be supplied on an annual basis to the Town upon the renewal of said insurance policy.