Can new residential developments and buildings make improvements in terms of carbon reduction? Apparently so, even if it takes some work.
Recently, #Chapel Hill, NC Town Council member Rachel Schaevitz mentioned the difficulty in providing flexibility to make sure developers can meet clean #energy goals regardless of the technology utilized by their buildings.
Schaevitz discussed the desire to see new development really improve with regard to carbon reduction, even more so than from what the expectations were over a decade ago. It is clear that people will say things such as, “I can’t go #solar because of trees, so I don’t have to do anything.” The goal is to get away from this mentality.
The town of Chapel Hill came up with an Energy Policy in 2009 that called for new buildings to be more energy efficient – 20 percent more, to be precise, than industry standards.
According to Ralph Karpinos, Town Attorney, the policy is one which is voluntary, and when developers want the council to rezone land, they generally come with an energy plan. The main tool for implementing energy-efficiency standards is rezoning.
#Rachel Schaevitz recognizes that when the policy was approved by the town, the situation was different. She highlighted that climate crisis is more real today.
A Focus on Solar
There is a definite focus on solar and clean energy, and it is one which is important. Efforts need to be intensified, and loopholes need to be closed, as per Schaevitz.
So what is Chapel Hill going to do? The Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board requested to have any renovated or new buildings include solar systems on a minimum of 80 percent of qualified rooftops.
What exactly is a qualified rooftop for solar? Pitched roofs or flat roofs facing the southwest or southeast and any parking lots. These could be covered in #solar panels.
As per the town’s community resilience officer, John Richardson, the existing policy could be revised in a fairly short time frame (just a few months) in order to add the previously mentioned coverage requirement of 80 percent. He believes there would be enough flexibility to adjust to technology that is constantly evolving.
Here’s what is meant by flexibility with evolving technology – in terms of solar panels, let’s say a developer is building in an area with a lot of trees. Maybe solar panels wouldn’t work because there isn’t enough sunlight coming in. But, a way around this would be to have heavier insulation installed and windows which are energy-efficient. So if there isn’t the opportunity to go solar, there is still the opportunity to get creative.
Chapel Hill does not have the authority to require developers to go solar or to attempt to be more energy-efficient. But there is the option to add permit fee rebates and density bonuses to those who meet energy-efficiency goals.
#Nancy Oates is a Council member who doesn’t want to pit Chapel Hill’s interest in energy-efficiency with the want for affordable housing. She mentioned that the council is just as concerned about affordable housing as they are with energy efficiency.
In terms of solar power generation, #North Carolina came in last year as the second biggest generator in the nation. Number one was California. But in terms of solar arrays on a small-scale, North Carolina was only 17th in the country.
North Carolina legalized solar leasing back in 2017, and this enables customers to pay to lease solar equipment with a flat monthly fee. For small businesses and homeowners wanting to install solar arrays, this fee has made it affordable.
There are a lot of businesses and homes in Chapel Hill with solar panels already installed, such as Midtown Market and Chapel Hill Tire.
It is recognized that more buildings which are town-owned should be retrofitted with solar arrays, according to Mayor Pam Hemminger. Other buildings with rooftop solar panels include Fire Station 1 and the Chapel Hill Public Library.
Local governments are able to expand local production of solar energy thanks to assistance from the SolSmart program and tax incentives to property owners who opt to have solar arrays installed.
Places across the country are making efforts to go solar and to reduce carbon emissions. These positive moves need to continue, and Chapel Hill certainly has the right idea with solar panels on rooftops. Follow solar news to stay in the know! You don’t want to miss any new developments in your area!