by Dennis Dalman
Sartell now has a three-month moratorium on the installation of “solar gardens.”
A solar garden – or solar “farm” as it’s sometimes called – is a large array of solar panels that converts sunlight into electricity. They are also known as photovoltaic power stations.
At its May 8 meeting, the Sartell City Council voted unanimously to approve the moratorium. Previous to council action, the Sartell Planning Commission also voted to approve it. In some cases, residents have small solar gardens installed in their yards or on their rooftops to supply power to their homes.
The city hopes to develop a consistent policy within three months that will cover all sorts of solar gardens. Requests for solar-garden installations have been increasing – thus the need for a policy.
Those requests have included solar gardens in residential areas of Sartell, as well as commercial areas, and one was approved by the city council some months ago for future installation on city-owned land near Fourth Avenue S.
The current Sartell city ordinance concerning solar gardens states that such installations for up to two megawatts (residential areas) and up to five megawatts (commercial, industrial areas) are permitted with a conditional-use permit and subject to additional screening requirements.
However, that ordinance does not mention requirements for setbacks, types of lots or height of the installations. A new and improved ordinance would specify such requirements.
The moratorium will allow city staff to study the impact of solar gardens on growth and development, after which the ordinance could be updated, if needed.
If anyone has questions about solar gardens, contact Kari Theisen, Sartell’s community development supervisor, at email@example.com.