There are two terms being used in the debate over solar power that are misleading at best: commercial and industrial.
Commercial: Any solar installation, no matter how small, is commercial. When a homeowner installs a solar array, by New York State law, it has to be connected to the grid. The utility must reduce your bill for any power your system generates, and then credit your account for any extra. You’re allowed to install a system that produces 110 percent of your last year’s usage. With available tax credits and subsidies, a system very quickly pays for itself—meaning that you are making money. You get a return on your capital investment—that’s pretty much the definition of a commercial transaction.
Industrial: The term conjures up images of belching smokestacks, incessant noise, toxic emissions, and truck traffic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once installed, a solar array is as unobtrusive as it gets—particularly with the safeguards in the proposed solar law, along with those already in the existing town regulations on trees, wetlands, and steep slope. A solar array is not industrial, in any sense that the word is actually used for.
Property rights: The new solar law proposes a 10-acre minimum lot size for any solar installation not designed for personal use—even though the New York State model solar law suggest a 5-acre minimum. Anyone who has less than 10 acres—which is almost all property owners in Yorktown—will be prohibited from the same use of their land given to their wealthy neighbors. Given the protections embodied in the new law, along with existing town regulations, there is no reasonable justification for arbitrarily establishing this lot size: for anyone with less, that constitutes an illegal taking of real value.
New zoning: Anyone who has been through the planning and zoning process in Yorktown knows just how comprehensive and time consuming it can be. The proposed new zoning offers no additional protections that are not already in existing town regulations, including the proposed solar law. It will, however, create an additional financial burden on the property owner (and the town), along with additional delay. This would paradoxically affect smaller property owners the most. It’s a bureaucrat’s dream and a property owner’s nightmare.
Theses two terms, commercial and industrial, are being used to justify the 10-acre minimum, by implying that there is something inherently bad in larger solar installations. But that arbitrary lot size significantly diminishes the value of the land of the majority of property owners in Yorktown. We need a solar law—but we need one that protects our property rights. And we do not need a new layer of bureaucracy.