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Solar codes studied by La Crosse council committee



The city of La Crosse is considering some changes in its rules for solar energy systems. 

The city council’s administration committee passed an amendment to make rooftop solar energy systems more accessible and safer. 

Fire chief Ken Gilliam said people planning to install solar panels need to pay attention to building codes to avoid the possibility of fires.

La Crosse already approved a city energy policy, aimed at getting away from fossil fuels in the next 30 years. 

There are concerns among citizens that building codes are too restrictive, keeping people from putting solar panels on rooftops.

One speaker, before the committee Tuesday, said that larger, “more progressive” cities, such as Minneapolis, have taken steps to make solar energy installations easier.   

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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  1. Janette Dean

    November 6, 2019 at 11:53 am

    This is a very one-sided version of the hearing which the official video will soon show. Several of us citizens representing the Fridays for Future La Crosse Chapter, UWL Students for Sustainability, Coulee Region Sierra Club, Citizens Action of Wisconsin, Next Gen America, and we nearby Minnesota residents testified and/or registered IN SUPPORT of the new La Crosse Solar Energy Systems Ordinance sponsored and proposed by Mayor Tim Kabat who knows that we the people want climate action now! The ordinance passed out of committee because it encourages the usage of solar on roofs and the ground throughout La Crosse as an easy accessory to buildings vs. requiring the previous permit process. Many of us believe that as technology advances rapidly, the energy generation from solar panels is going to continue to increase significantly so several of us were accepting of the rules & guidelines that require SOME reasonable and necessary roof access space to fire personnel which we believe should rarely harm project return on investment which was the remaining discussion point during the public hearing on the final ordinance. Two solar installers of the five citizen & business speakers (4 supporting the bill) mentioned the fire-related access space but one was also supporting of passage overall at this time with that item to be discussed a bit more. The Fire Dept. spokesman there answering questions also explained to me afterward that changes to the access space required can be accommodated on a case-by-case with changes to the perimeter space that may allow enough access in other ways.

  2. Janette Dean

    November 6, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    I should clarify that it is the ZONING permit process that is in the process of being updated to codify that solar energy systems “shall be allowed as an accessory use in all zoning classifications where structures of any sort are allowed, subject to certain requirements.” For current information on other permits needed (which are also being streamlined soon for small PV projects of 15KW or less per the note at the bottom of the site page), go to: http://www.cityoflacrosse.org/solar .

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