County Administrator's Office

Exhibit F for Ordinance 6064

26.88.206 Solar Energy Facilities – Special Use Standards

  1. Purpose. This section establishes minimum development and operational standards for solar energy facilities, where allowed by the base zone or the Renewable Energy (RE) combining zone. The intent of these standards is to promote and facilitate the siting and permitting of solar electric (photovoltaic) systems and facilities in a manner that minimizes adverse environmental impacts.
  2. Applicability. These standards apply to all solar energy facilities not otherwise exempted.
  3. Exempt facilities. The special use standards set forth in this section shall not apply to the following exempt systems:
    1. Solar hot water systems designed as an accessory use to serve a legally established use of the property;
    2. Solar photovoltaic systems, subject to planning clearance that meet any one of the following:
      1. Roof-mounted accessory systems and commercial facilities located on a legally established building containing the primary allowed use on the site, and/or on legally established accessory structure(s) containing use(s) allowed as accessory to the primary use, where the installations meet Fire Safe Standards for access along the roof peak and eaves.
      2. Solar accessory systems and commercial facilities affixed to shade structures located over required parking areas, in accordance with Parking and Fire Safe Standards.
      3. Accessory ground mounted solar photovoltaic systems designed to provide no more than 125% of the estimated energy demand on-site meeting all of the following health and safety standards:
        1. Not exceeding 15-feet in height, unless demonstrated by a structural engineer to meet public safety standards;
        2. For residential installations, the system design capacity does not exceed the average kW use for similar sites, unless a higher energy need for legal uses on the installation site is demonstrated as determined by the Director, subject to a zoning permit;
        3. The system installation complies with required yard setbacks and lot coverage limitations of the underlying zone district, unless demonstrated that the installation does not impair sight distance for safe access to or from the property or other properties in the vicinity as determined by the Director subject to a zoning permit;
        4. The system installation meets fire safe standards and provisions for emergency access, and defensible space around the system components are provided;
        5. The system is not located over a septic system or leachfield area or identified reserve area, and is not located in a floodway as designated by FEMA; and,
        6. Does not otherwise create a fire or other safety hazard as determined by the Fire Marshal and Building Official.
    3. Solar photovoltaic systems and facilities owned by the County or other local agency as defined in Government Code Section 53090 or the California Public Utility Code Section 12808.5.
  4. Minor Commercial Solar Facilities (Incidental to a Primary Use)

    The following special use standards apply to all minor solar electric (PV) systems and facilities designed to provide energy for on- and off-site use, that are incidental to the primary use of the property. These standards apply in addition to the general site planning and development standards of Section 26.88.200.

    1. Parcel Coverage. Minor commercial solar facilities shall cover less than 15% of the parcel and no more than 5 acres. The area covered by panels shall be the lesser of 50% of the maximum lot coverage allowed by the zone, or if applicable, 50% of the allowable building envelope as designated on a final map. Facilities mounted on the roof(s) of legal, permitted structures that otherwise comply with lot coverage maximums are exempt from these limitations.
    2. Minimum setbacks. The facility shall meet the minimum front yard setbacks for primary structures of the zone. In urban service areas, the facility shall meet fire safe standards and provisions for emergency access and defensible space around the facility are required.
    3. Height Limits. Facilities mounted on a structure may exceed the height limit of the zone by no more than 2 feet. Ground -mounted facilities shall not exceed 15-feet in height.
    4. Incompatible Locations. Ground mounted facilities shall not be located in the following areas:
      1. over a septic system or leachfield area or identified reserve area
        1. in a floodway as designated by FEMA
        2. in a designated sensitive habitat or biotic resource area as identified in an adopted General Plan, Area Plan, Specific Plan or the California Natural Diversity Database.
        3. in an approach zone (inner or outer safety zones) or the inner turning zone of a public use airport.
        4. Glare. Concentrated reflections or glare shall not be directed at occupied structures, recreation areas, roads, highways or airport flight landing or takeoff areas.
        5. Farmland Protection. If the facility is located within or near an agricultural area, the owner/operator shall sign and record a Right to Farm declaration and an agricultural easement.
  5. Commercial Solar Facilities

    The following special use standards apply to all solar electric (PV) facilities that are developed as a primary use of the property as allowed by the underlying zone, in addition to the siting criteria and development standards of Section 26.88.200.

      1. Minimum setbacks. The facility shall meet the minimum front yard setbacks for primary structures of the zone. In urban service areas, the facility shall meet fire safe standards and access for emergency vehicles shall be provided along the periphery of the facility.
      2. Height Limits. Facilities mounted on a structure may exceed the height limit of the zone by up to 2-feet. Ground -mounted facilities shall not exceed 15-feet in height unless otherwise allowed by use permit.
      3. Undergrounding Electrical. Electrical distribution lines on the project site shall be underground up to the low voltage side of the step up transformer, to the point of on- site use or to the utility interface point of an on-site substation. This provision may be waived by the decision-making body if the undergrounding is determined to be an undue burden.
      4. Glare Effects. Concentrated reflections or glare shall not be directed at occupied structures, recreation areas, roads, highways or airport flight landing or takeoff areas. A detailed analysis of potential glare effects may be required at the time of application, and the applicant may be required to minimize glare effects by installing vegetative screens or berms, and/or by adjusting solar collector position or operation to minimize glare.
      5. Farmland Protections. In addition to the Right to Farm and Agricultural Use Easement requirements set forth in 26.88.200 B1 e (Farmland Protection), the site area used for the installation of a commercial solar facility shall exclude mapped Important Farmlands, and a protective easement may be required over these lands.
      6. Scenic and Biotic Resource Protections. Ground mounted commercial solar facilities shall not be located in the following areas:
        1. over a septic system or leachfield area or identified reserve area;
        2. in a floodway as designated by FEMA;
        3. within a Scenic Resource (SR) or Biotic Resource (BR) Combining Zone, nor within a sensitive habitat or biotic resource area as identified in an adopted General Plan, Area Plan, Specific Plan, or the California Natural Diversity Database, unless a protective easement is recorded to protect these resources;
        4. in an approach zone (inner or outer safety zones) or the inner turning zone of a public use airport.
      7. Photovoltaic Module Management. Reuse, recycling or disposal of any photovoltaic panels shall be conducted in accordance with theStandards for Universal Waste Management – Photovoltaic Modulesas set forth in California Code of Regulations, title 22, division 4.5, chapter 23, and subsequent amendments thereto.

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Santa Rosa, CA 95403
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