Spearfish shines a light on solar energy farms

Pictured are Solar panels at the Black Hills State University Campus. The City of Spearfish is now moving forward with large-scale solar energy facilities. Pioneer file photo

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SPEARFISH — To progress the city of Spearfish’s move towards energy sustainability, the city’s planning and zoning department has brought an ordinance outlining large-scale solar energy facility standards to the table.

“About a year ago, you may remember, we did some updates for wind energy generation that was allowed for basically commercial and industrial application, this also kind of falls along that same line as the community and the United States moves toward alternate forms of energy generation,” Jayna Watson, Spearfish city planner, explained to council at its Sept 20 meeting.

The ordinance defines a large-scale solar energy conversion facility as a system of devices and equipment used to collect solar energy and convert it into electrical energy for storage or distribution for offsite or on-site use and includes solar panels and related energy conversion equipment, electrical components, and building associated with the same. While small-scale solar energy conversion facilities are defined as a system of devices and equipment used to collect solar energy and convert it into electrical energy for storage or distribution primarily for on-site use and includes solar panels and related energy conversion equipment, electrical components, and building associated with the same.

Any small-scale solar energy conversion facility can be approved administratively for most zones and districts throughout the city as long as they comply with all setback, height, and lot coverage regulations. So for example, if a resident or small business wanted to install a few solar panels to supplement their energy use, that can be accomplished by following the same procedures for any small construction project.

The new ordinance, 1354, lays out the criteria that must be met for the construction of larger scale facilities the likes that would be used for solar energy farming, and in what zones they can be built as well as the review process to be followed when a request is made.

“The use permit criteria that will be evaluated has several design standards that are described within the code as it relates to buffering, the viewpoint from adjacent land uses, providing adequate setbacks, providing a variety of different, if you will, ways to mitigate the impact that a solar energy farm would produce,” Watson said.

Small scale solar energy conversion facilities can be installed in rural large lot single-family; agriculture; R1 single-family residential; R2 one and two family residential; R3 multi-family residential; C1 central commercial; C3 office commercial; ILR light/ restrictive industrial; IH/ heavy industrial; DRD development review; and APZ airport zoning districts. Large-scale facilities will be considered for Ag agricultural; C2 highway service commercial; ILR light/ restrictive industrial; IH/ heavy industrial; DRD development review; and APZ airport zoning districts.

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