Solar panel comparison

Traditional crystalline panels compared to thin, film panels (Source: City of Wildwood) 

The city of Wildwood has approved new regulations for roof-mounted solar panels that allow some leeway for those facing an adjoining or adjacent street.

A number of public hearings were held regarding front-facing solar panels, with those speaking both in favor and in opposition. The main concerns cited were aesthetics and decreasing home values.

To limit the visual impact solar energy systems cause, the changes prohibit mounted systems from being placed on front-facing roofs, unless they are totally screened from public view. However, integrated systems can be located anywhere on the roof. With an integrated system, external mounting hardware is not required, leading to a more visually appealing product. In addition, a combination integrated system on the front-facing panels and a mounted system on non-front facing roofs is allowed.

"I think it gives a great deal of flexibility and offsets some of the potential charges or costs associated with integrated systems alone," said Joe Vujnich, director of planning and parks.

City attorney John Young added that the new regulations actually broaden the scope of solar systems allowed.

"Compared to some of the neighboring communities ... what is being proposed today is actually less restrictive than other cities in the St. Louis and St. Charles areas" he said.

Young added that the integrated systems are less intrusive, provide less glare and would continue to preserve property values. He noted that in regard to environmental impacts, the regulations will add a new permitting process for the removal and disposal of solar system components, so they will be compliant with federal regulations.

Mayor Jim Bowlin called the decision a "cutting edge" approach for the city.

In the past, requests for front-facing solar panels on roofs went through a CUP (conditional use permit) process that required a public hearing and the submission of a preliminary development plan. Those requests went before the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), and were subsequently reviewed by the city council.

The new zoning section dedicated to solar energy system regulations removes solar panel installations from the CUP process and instead vests permitting authority directly with the department of planning.

P&Z approved the new zoning code at the March 6 meeting, with chair David Beattie dissenting.



Cathy has been a freelance reporter for more than 20 years. During this time, she has covered everything from local government, school districts, litigation, and commercial development, to special events.

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