On February 3, 2011, the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee approved for consideration by the full New Jersey State Assembly a bill (A3125) that proposes to preempt municipalities from enacting ordinances that purport to regulate the installation of solar panels on residential property. Specifically, this proposed legislation, which I like to refer to as the "solar ordinance preemption bill” supplements the Municipal Land Use Law to prohibit a municipality from adopting an ordinance that regulates the installation of photovoltaic solar energy systems under the following circumstances: “(1) in the case of a roof mounted system, [provided that] the panels, and all accessory equipment, extend 12 inches or less beyond the edge of the roofline or above the highest point of the roof surface or structure; or, (2) in the case of a surface level or ground mounted system, [provided that] the system consists of 10 or less photovoltaic panels and is situated more than 50 feet from the nearest property boundary line.”
In addition, Assembly a bill A3125 provides that a locality shall not require payment of any fee that exceeds processing costs for an application pertaining to the approval, installation or operation on residential property of any photovoltaic solar energy systems or any small wind energy systems (as such term is defined in N.J.S.A. 40:55D-66.12).
Although the future of Assembly bill A3125 remains uncertain, the State Legislature has clearly taken an interest in it. In addition to the recent activity in the Assembly, the Senate actually passed Assembly bill A3125 (which it had substituted for Senate bill S2006) by a vote of 31-7 on June 28th of last year. If adopted and approved by the Governor, this bill will facilitate the installation of solar facilities on residential properties and encourage homeowners to use renewable energy resources in New Jersey which, in turn, will promote the goals of the Energy Master Plan.