Solar Law Experts Give Municipalities Lessons on Managing Impending Large-Scale Solar Park Boom | Lehigh Valley Regional News

Over the past decade, the proliferation of warehouses has grown on Lehigh Valley farmland.

But they could soon give way to a new spectacle: industrial solar farms.

“It’s concerning that there are parts of the state where municipalities aren’t ready to answer the question, what are the rules for these new projects?” said Mohamed Badissy, associate professor at Penn State Dickinson Law.

In Pennsylvania, local governments control zoning, and Badissy says 95% of municipalities in the state don’t have ordinances for utility-scale solar power.

He, along with the Marcellus Center Outreach and Research, hosts tutorials on industrial solar farm zoning throughout the state. On Tuesday, they visited Penn State Lehigh Valley for 27 local municipalities.

“Sometimes communities worry about the change in view. Sometimes they worry about road traffic, noise, glare,” Badissy said of the problems faced by unprepared communities.

Badissy says more than 30% of new industrial solar farms will occur in rural areas.

“Communities should think ahead where they want it and how they want to regulate it, so they don’t have it in a surprise place they don’t want it,” Charlie Schmehl said.

Schmehl is a Bethlehem-based community planner who works with municipalities across the valley.

“Do you expect a lot of these applications to start coming in?” I asked.

“It’s a little less common because our land is expensive, but South Central PA sees a lot of these 8-900 acre projects at a time,” he said.

Seeing the future and preparing for it, which could include rules for placing solar panels on warehouse roofs. Badissy says it’s already being done in California.