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Solar panel ordinance passed by Hampton Council

November 23, 2018

A solar panel ordinance, which includes provisions to protect firefighters in emergency situations, was passed at the Oct. 24 Hampton Township Council meeting.

Hampton fire department chiefs previously raised concerns of where the panels are being located on roofs. They noted that solar panel manufacturers may want to cover the majority of a roof, but fire departments could possibly need to cut a hole in the roof during a fire.

Also, the panels may be in the way with electricity most likely running through them. In order to properly ventilate a roof, a firefighter would have to go where the panels are located and cut through them, said Brian Hilliard, chief of the Hampton VFD No. 1, in a May interview.

Basically, the solar panel ordinance would require solar panels to not fully cover a roof as to leave safe access and pathways for fire fighters, said Martin Orban, land use administrator. Presently, he said, companies may install solar panels that can cover up to 90 to 100 percent of the roof.

This would apply to both homes and businesses, he said.

The ordinance will apply to any solar photovoltaic systems that is installed and constructed after the effective date of the ordinance. Those installed prior to this do not have to adhere to the requirements. However, any updates or modifications that “materially alters the size” of the system will need to comply, according to the solar panel ordinance.

Solar panels need a permit from the township prior to installation.

The roof needs to have “the capacity and structural integrity to support the proposed solar photovoltaic system and the potential live load of fire fighters accessing the roof and/or structure,” according to the ordinance.

The ordinance states homes must also have signage noting the presence of solar panels to alert any emergency personnel, containing the words “warning: photovoltaic power source” and placed adjacent to the main service disconnect in a location clearly visible from the location where the disconnect is operated.

This shall also include a diagram depicting all access and pathways or a clear warning if there are none. And these systems must include a rapid disconnect

The intent is for pathways and roof structures to be able to support the live load of fire fighters accessing the roof.

The ordinance had been reviewed by Allegheny County Zoning, according to Orban.

A township public hearing was also held.

“The Township has requested and included input from the Fire Department throughout the process. I’m confident that the solar ordinance adequately addresses the importance of firefighter safety,” said John Schwend, chief of North Hampton.

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