§ 215.03  SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS (SES).
   (A)   Purpose and intent.  The city finds that other communities are being requested to address the use and development of renewable energy systems, believing them to enhance energy conservation efforts with limited adverse impact on nearby properties. The city finds that it may be in the public interest to encourage the use and development of such renewable energy systems; to support the use of solar energy collection systems and the development of solar energy farms; and that the development of solar energy farms could be balanced with the protection of the public health, safety and welfare. While it wishes time to study the issue, it also wishes to have a process in place to address the issue while it is being studied. Accordingly, the city resolves that the following standards shall be temporarily adopted to address applications for solar energy systems and solar energy farms to be constructed within the city while the city undertakes to study the issue.
   (B)   Severability. The provisions of this section shall be severable and the invalidity of any division or subdivision thereof shall not make void any other division subdivision of this section.
   (C)   Applicability. These regulations shall apply to all solar energy systems and solar energy farms on properties and structures under the jurisdiction of city zoning. Those systems shall be defined as solar farms generating less than 50 megawatts of power. The city shall refer any application for a large electric power generating plant (LEPGP) to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC) for approval.
   (D)   Types of SES.
      (1)   Roof or building mounted SES. Systems which are accessory to the principal land use, designed to supply energy for the principal use. Roof or building mounted SES shall be regulated as follows:
         (a)   Roof or building mounted SES are permitted accessory uses in all districts in which buildings are permitted.
         (b)   All roof or building mounted SES shall meet the standards of the Minnesota Building Code and the owner or contractor shall receive a building and/or mechanical permit before installing a roof or building mounted SES. Roof or building mounted SES are subject to the accessory use standards for the district in which it is located, including setback, height and impervious surface coverage limits.
         (c)   Color. All roof or building mounted SES shall use colors that are the same or similar with the color of the building or roof material of the building on which the system is mounted.
         (d)   Roof or building mounted SES shall not exceed the maximum allowed height in any zoning district and shall not extend beyond the perimeter of the roof line of the building on which it is mounted. For purposes of height measurement, roof or building mounted SES other than building-integrated systems shall be considered to be mechanical devices and are restricted consistent with other building mounted mechanical devices for the zoning district in which the system is being installed.
         (e)   Roof mounted SES shall be placed on the roof to limit visibility from the public right-of-way or to blend into the roof design, provided that minimizing visibility still allows the property owner to reasonably capture solar energy.
      (2)   Ground mounted SES. Accessory to the principal land use, designed to supply energy for the principal use. Ground mounted SES shall be regulated as follows:
         (a)   Ground mounted SES are permitted accessory uses in all districts in which buildings are permitted and shall be limited to a maximum area of 200 square feet in residential districts and shall not encompass more than 10% of the total property area or lot size in all other districts.
         (b)   All ground mounted SES shall meet the standards of the Minnesota Building Code and the owner or contractor shall receive a building and/or mechanical permit before installing a ground mounted SES. Ground mounted SES are subject to the accessory use standards for the district in which it is located, including setback, height and impervious surface coverage limits.
         (c)   The city does not consider the collector surface of a ground mounted SES that is not in a DNR designated Shoreland District as impervious surface. Any collector surface of a ground mounted SES foundation that is in a DNR designated Shoreland District or other component of the solar installation that rests on the ground is considered impervious surface.
         (d)   The height of a ground mounted SES shall not exceed 10 feet at maximum tilt.
         (e)   Ground mounted SES shall only be located in the rear yard as defined by this section.
         (f)   Ground mounted SES shall not encroach upon drainage and utility easements.
      (3)   Community SES (solar garden). Community SES shall be designed to supply energy for off-site uses on the distribution grid, but not for export to the wholesale market or connection to the electric transmission grid. Community SES can be allowed as the principal or accessory use to the principal land use in the A-1 Agricultural, RR Rural Residential, B-2 Highway Business and I-1 Light Industrial districts unless otherwise regulated or prohibited in this section. Community SES shall be regulated as follows:
         (a)   Community SES shall be permitted as an interim use in the A-1 Agricultural, RR Rural Residential, B-2 Highway Business and I-1 Light Industrial districts, and shall be processed according to the standards of Chapter 197 (Interim Use Permits) of this title.
         (b)   Community SES shall be located on parcels of land no less than 5 acres in size.
         (c)   Prohibitions. The city prohibits all community SES within:
            1.   Shoreland Districts as designated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the city zoning map, except that community SES can be located as close as 600 feet away from lake.
            2.   Wetlands to the extent required by the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act,
            3.   Within 600 feet of areas designated or formally protected from development by federal, state or county agencies as wildlife habitat, wildlife management areas or designated as national wild and scenic land or corridor.
            4.   The Floodplain Management Overlay District.
            5.   Residential districts and the B-1 Downtown Business District.
            6.   All drainage and utility easements.
         (d)   An interconnection agreement must be submitted to the utility company and proof be provided to the city that the utility company has deemed the agreement "complete".
         (e)   All structures must meet the setback, height and coverage limitations for the zoning district in which the system is located, except as otherwise stated in this section.
         (f)   The owner or operator shall be required to submit to the city, a detailed site plan as regulated under Chapter 199 (Site Plan Review) of this title, showing both existing and proposed conditions. These plans shall show the location of all areas where solar arrays would be placed, the existing and proposed structures, property lines, access points, fencing, landscaping, surface water drainage patterns, floodplains, wetlands, the ordinary high water mark for all water bodies, any other protected resources, topography, electric equipment and all other characteristics requested by the city.
         (g)   All community SES shall meet the standards of the Minnesota Building Code and the owner or contractor shall receive a building and/or mechanical permit before installing a community SES. Community SES are subject to the accessory use standards for the district in which it is located, including setback, height and impervious surface coverage limits.
         (h)   Power and communication lines. Power and communication lines running between banks of solar panels and to electric substations or interconnections with buildings shall be buried underground on premise. The city may grant exemptions to this requirement in instances where shallow bedrock, water courses or other elements of the natural landscape interfere with the ability to bury lines.
         (i)   Decommissioning plan. The city requires the owner or operator to submit a decommissioning plan for community SES to ensure that the owner or operator properly removes the equipment and facilities upon the end of project life or after their useful life. The owner or operator shall decommission the solar panels in the event they are not in use for 12 consecutive months. The plan shall include provisions for the removal of all structures and foundations, the removal of all electrical transmission components, the restoration of soil and vegetation and a soundly-based plan ensuring financial resources will be available to fully decommission the site. The disposal of structures and/or foundations shall meet all applicant, federal, state and local requirements. The city may require the owner or operator to provide a current-day decommissioning cost estimate and shall post a bond, letter of credit or establish an escrow account, including an inflationary escalator, in an amount determined by the City Council, to ensure proper decommissioning.
      (4)   Solar farms.  Solar Farms shall be ground mounted SES arrays that are the principal use on parcel on which it is located within the A-1 Agricultural District and I-1 Light Industrial District. Solar farms are designed for providing energy to off-site uses or export to the wholesale market. Solar farms, including those that are not permitted or regulated by the State of Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Solar farms shall be regulated as following:
         (a)   Solar farms shall be permitted as an interim use in the A-1 Agricultural and I-1 Light Industrial districts, and shall be processed according to the standards of Chapter 197 (Interim Use Permits) of this title.
         (b)   Shall be on properties of at least 5 acres in size.
         (c)   Stormwater management and erosion and sediment control shall meet the requirements of the city and best management practices.
         (d)   Prohibitions. The city prohibits solar farms within:
            1.   Shoreland Districts as designated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the city zoning map, except that solar farms can be located as close as 600 feet away from lake.
            2.   Wetlands to the extent required by the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act.
            3.   Within 600 feet of areas designated or formally protected from development by federal, state or county agencies as wildlife habitat, wildlife management areas or designated as national wild and scenic land or corridor.
            4.   The Floodplain Management Overlay District.
            5.   All zoning districts except the A-1 Agricultural District and I-1 Light Industrial District.
            6.   All drainage and utility easements.
         (e)   An interconnection agreement must be submitted to the utility company and proof be provided to the city that the utility company has deemed the agreement "complete".
         (f)   All structures must meet the setback, height and coverage limitations for the zoning district in which the system is located, except as otherwise stated in this section.
         (g)   Foundations. The manufacturer's engineer or another qualified engineer shall certify that the foundation and design of the solar panels meets the accepted professional standards, given local soil and climate conditions.
         (h)   Power and communication lines. Power and communication lines running between banks of solar panels and to electric substations or interconnections with buildings shall be buried underground on premise. The city may grant exemptions to this requirement in instances where shallow bedrock, water courses or other elements of the natural landscape interfere with the ability to bury lines.
         (i)   The owner or operator shall be required to submit to the city, a detailed site plan as regulated under Chapter 199 (Site Plan Review) of this title, showing both existing and proposed conditions. These plans shall show the location of all areas where solar arrays would be placed, the existing and proposed structures, property lines, access points, fencing, landscaping, surface water drainage patterns, floodplains, wetlands, the ordinary high water mark for all water bodies, any other protected resources, topography, electric equipment and all other characteristics requested by the city.
         (j)   All solar farms shall meet the standards of the Minnesota Building Code and all applicable local, state and federal regulatory standards. The owner or contractor shall receive a building and/or mechanical permit before installing a solar farm. Solar farms are subject to the accessory use standards for the district in which it is located, including setback, height and impervious surface coverage limits.
         (k)   The owner or operator of the solar farm must submit to the city a detailed emergency shutdown plan as part of the review process.
         (l)   The city may allow the installation of small operations, security and equipment buildings on the site of solar farms as permitted accessory uses to the solar farm.
         (m)   The owner or operator shall contain all unenclosed electrical conductors located above ground within structures that control access. In addition solar farms shall be protected from entry by a minimum 4-foot tall fence. Razor wire is prohibited on all fences.
         (n)   Signage shall be posted at all entrance points to the property the solar farm is located on that includes at a minimum, the owner and operator's name, contact information and emergency phone numbers. All signage shall meet the requirements of Chapter 207 (Signs) of this title.
         (o)   The solar farm owner or operator shall provide access to the city Fire Department either in the form of a lock or key to all access points to the property the solar farm is located on.
         (p)   Solar farms which have a generating capacity of ten megawatts or more shall meet the review and design standards and fall under the jurisdiction of the MN Department of Commerce and/or MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for solar farms, as applicable.
         (q)   Decommissioning plan. The city requires the owner or operator to submit a decommissioning plan for solar farms to ensure that the owner or operator properly removes the equipment and facilities upon the end of project life or after their useful life. The owner or operator shall decommission the solar panels in the event they are not in use for 12 consecutive months. The plan shall include provisions for the removal of all structures and foundations, the removal of all electrical transmission components, the restoration of soil and vegetation and a soundly-based plan ensuring financial resources will be available to fully decommission the site. The disposal of structures and/or foundations shall meet all applicant, federal, state and local requirements. The city may require the owner or operator to provide a current-day decommissioning cost estimate and shall post a bond, letter of credit or establish an escrow account, including an inflationary escalator, in an amount determined by the City Council, to ensure proper decommissioning.
      (5)   Additional standards. In addition to the standards allowed above, all SES shall meet the following standards.  The owners or operators of SES that are connected to the electric distribution or transmission system, either directly or through the existing service of the primary use on the site, shall obtain an interconnection agreement with the electric utility in whose service territory the system is located. Off-grid systems are exempt from this requirement.
         (a)   Electric SES components that are connected to a building electric system must have an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listing.
         (b)   All SES shall meet the standards of the Minnesota and National Electric Code.
         (c)   All SES using a reflector to enhance solar production shall minimize glare from the reflector that affects adjacent or nearby properties. Steps to minimize glare nuisance may include selective placement of the system, screening on the north side of the solar array, reducing use of the reflector system or other remedies that limit glare.
         (d)   Setbacks. All SES structures and equipment shall meet the setback and coverage limitations for the zoning district in which the system is located, except that solar farms shall be setback from all property lines at least 100 feet. In addition, solar farms shall be screened from adjacent residential uses in accordance with Chapter 213 (Fencing, Screening and Landscaping) of this title.
         (e)   Abandonment. Any SES which is inoperable for 12 successive months shall be deemed to be abandoned and shall be deemed a public nuisance. The owner shall remove the abandoned system at their expense after obtaining a demolition permit.
         (f)   Building permit. A building permit shall be obtained for any SES prior to installation.
         (g)   All SES shall meet all federal and state requirements including the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requirement and size requirements.
(Ord. 2011-06-07A, passed 6-7-2011; Am. Ord. 2015-11-4A, passed 11-4-2015)