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NYSERDA hopes to boost solar power development through new unified permitting process

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The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority hopes to facilitate solar power development across the state by financially incentivizing communities to adopt a unified permitting process for small-scale photovoltaic systems.

Assuming municipalities embrace the recommended guidelines — developed through a partnership between NYSERDA, New York Power Authority and City University of New York — this new process would expedite the approval of photovoltaic projects with a rated capacity of 12 kilowatts or less.

Permit determinations must be issued within 14 days upon receipt of “complete and accurate applications” under the new guidelines.

To encourage communities to implement the new procedures, NYSERDA will offer grants through its Cleaner, Greener Communities program.

Municipalities that adopt the unified permit and procedures will be eligible for between $2,500 and $5,000 — depending on population — and applications will be accepted until Sept. 30, 2014, or until funds are exhausted, according to a NYSERDA news release.

Municipalities may customize the permit application form and set their own permit fee as they see fit.

To be eligible for expedited permitting, projects need to meet 13 criteria — one of which specifies that the installation project must not require a zoning variance.

In other words, the recommended process would not resolve possible confusions associated with changes in local zoning laws — such as the recent case of Roger D. Alexander’s proposed solar project in Cape Vincent.

There was an initial mix-up as to whether the proposed project falls under Cape Vincent’s old law or the revised zoning rules, but Cape Vincent’s town Planning Board determined the project was not subject to a site plan review because Mr. Alexander, owner of Lazy Acres Mobile Home Park, already had been issued a permit for the work.

However, the validity of the permit is still being debated and Mr. Alexander’s County Route 7 neighbor Mary C. Grogan plans to challenge the project before the local Zoning Board of Appeals or take legal action if needed.

The incentives are part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative to quadruple in 2013 the amount of solar capacity in New York that was added during 2011, according to NYSERDA.

For more information, visit: http://wdt.me/solarpermit

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