KEARNEY — Buffalo County now has regulations to guide the development and safe use of solar energy installations.
The regulations, approved Tuesday by the Buffalo County Board of Commissioners, are the product of legal research by Deputy Buffalo County Attorney Andy Hoffmeister and input from citizens and professionals in the electric industry.
Joe Johnson, the citizen who spoke out in September when the county board considered approving a proposal by Hoffmeister, was thanked for his input on the new regulations.
“I think we have something that’s a little more workable,” Hoffmeister said, referring to Johnson’s efforts to help standardize the regulations to promote continued development of solar energy systems for private and commercial uses.
“The process works,” Johnson said, referring to others who assisted with the regulations, including Nebraska Public Power District, Hoffmeister, the county board and compliance engineer Bobby Johnson of Dawson Public Power District.
Joe Johnson, who has a 32-cell solar array at his rural home northeast of Kearney, is employed at Olsson Associates engineering. He is a former city manager at David City, Dakota City and Nebraska City. He said people from around Nebraska who are interested in Buffalo County’s regulations have contacted him.
In researching solar regulations, Hoffmeister said input from the two Johnsons was invaluable. He also consulted with Lincoln County about its regulations and studied rules from Keith and Kearney counties.
Buffalo County’s regulations define terms for solar energy installations, and address the technology from a two-tier perspective.
Smaller personal installations will produce 25 kilowatts of energy or less. Larger commercial arrays will produce more than 25 kilowatts.
Permits for either large or small systems will cost $125, Hoffmeister said. A public hearing will be required before permits for larger systems are issued.
The regulations address where on residential property solar collectors can be erected or fastened to houses. Hoffmeister said roof-mounted systems must leave walking space in case firefighters need access to the attic.
In the event of a fire, the walking space will give firefighters room to battle attic blazes.