Roeland Park discusses solar-ready ordinance, solar voltaic system installation at public facilities

The new, 85-page Climate Action KC Plan outlines a number of ways cities and other organizations can help the Kansas City region get greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. One way is to diversify energy generation by making solar energy more accessible to residents through policies. File photo.

The Roeland Park city council on Monday evening discussed two items related to solar energy: a solar-ready ordinance and pursuing the installation of solar voltaic energy systems at public facilities.

Solar energy is on the rise in northeast Johnson County, with less restrictions on residential solar panel arrays and the inclusion of solar panel arrays at public buildings, such as the plans to include an array at the new Prairie Village public works facility. Although the city council didn’t take any action on either item on Monday, the discussion around both items will move forward as a result of the meeting.

SOLAR-READY ORDINANCE

The solar-ready ordinance the city council discussed would require new construction projects — including residential and commercial — to be designed with a roof and electrical system to be ready for a solar panel array if the owner chooses to take that route. The ordinance would not require a solar panel array to be included in construction.

Additionally, the ordinance would be solely for new construction, such as a new home or a new office building. Detached garages and sheds would also be subject to the solar-ready ordinance, according to city documents. Mayor Mike Kelly said the solar-ready ordinance could save homeowners approximately $4,000 and commercial building owners approximately $25,000.

Climate Action KC leader and Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly said the benefits of both solar energy items go beyond the environment.

“As you all know, I’m passionate about the environment and we’ve made some great progress in the city of Roeland Park,” Kelly said. “But it really goes towards the opportunity to not only reduce or emissions level and improve air quality, but to provide good, new structures in the city of Roeland Park. I believe it would be a good ordinance.”

City Administrator Keith Moody said there aren’t any actual construction costs or additional expenses associated with the ordinance. The city already requires an architectural seal on new construction, and this would require the architect to sign off that the roof is sufficient to support a system in the future.

Councilmember Jim Kelly said he is against the ordinance being enforced for residents until the city further explores universal design, which he said is not required for new construction. The city council agreed to have the city staff put together a proposed ordinance and to discuss it at a future governing body workshop meeting.

SOLAR VOLTAIC ENERGY SYSTEM INSTALLATIONS

In addition to a solar-ready ordinance, the city council discussed pursuing the installation of solar voltaic energy systems at two of the city’s public facilities: city hall and the community center. Moody said the city gathered preliminary information that indicates the two buildings have solar generating potential, and was seeking direction on whether or not to pursue it.

The solar voltaic energy systems would be mounted on parking canopies or the roof at both facilities, according to city documents. The parking areas for both buildings are scheduled for improvement in 2020, and with federal tax incentives in place to allow the city to start saving money immediately, Mayor Kelly said time is of the essence.

“Over the life of the photovoltaic panels, over 20 years savings [are] in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Mayor Kelly said. “From a financial resources perspective, we would be doing our residents a disservice by not doing our due diligence with this project.”

Other municipalities such as Shawnee, Lee’s Summit, Liberty and Independence have similar installations, Mayor Kelly said. Jim said he thinks it’s a great idea, but his concern is who would maintain the installations, to which Mayor Kelly said it depends on how its financed. If the city chooses to own the equipment, it’s the city’s responsibility; if the city partners with a company that installs it, that company would take on responsibility.

The city council agreed to move forward with the Request for Proposals process in an effort to explore this further, and get price points from other firms.