Allen residents have more options for installing solar panels on their properties, following changes to the city’s land development code.
City council members agreed to allow solar panels on both primary and accessory structures, such as patio covers and detached garages, during the Aug. 23 meeting. Panels may also be mounted on the ground in side yards or backyards, assuming they follow applicable setbacks and are separated from neighboring properties by a solid fence. All solar panels must comply with building and fire codes.
The city also added language to address potential problems. Solar panels must be designed to avoid glares or reflections that would create a nuisance or safety hazard to nearby properties and roadways. Property owners are also required to maintain the panels; if the panels are no longer in use, they must be disengaged to prevent electrical accidents.
The city began regulating solar panels in 2012 as part of the land development code. Panels are allowed by right in any zoning district, though a building permit is required.
“We recognize that over time, things change,” said Lee Battle, Assistant Director of Community Development for the City of Allen. “The industry changes, technology changes, and it makes sense to go back and evaluate our ordinances.”
The updated ordinance still prohibits solar panels from directly facing any public street, regardless of screening. Mayor Stephen Terrell suggested that this portion of the ordinance could be reexamined as solar technology improves.
“The solar industry may start designing panels that look like shingles or look like something else that hangs on the roof,” said Mayor Terrell. “I am a solar proponent. But I think it’s something we have to work through…to satisfy everybody.”