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Normal will update its zoning code to address renewable energy

Solar panels
New zoning codes in Normal would limit large wind turbines to industrial sites.

The Town of Normal will propose updated zoning codes to address a proliferation of renewable energy sources.

Town planner Mercy Davison said current codes don’t offer specific guidance on solar panels or wind turbines.

“And yet, we know solar in particular is gaining popularity,” Davison said. “So, we decided it was important for the code to address it so that people knew what to expect, what would be permitted, what might need a public process.”

Normal residents are currently allowed to install solar panels on dwellings, and that won’t change with the new provisions. But Davison said the town has been using building codes to ensure panels are installed safely on roofs. The updated code will address solar energy sources directly, including the installation of ground-mounted panels.

Davison said the updates are simply a matter of keeping up with the times.

“Clearly, renewable energy is something that regionally, nationally, people are talking more about, and are more excited about,” she said.

New zoning codes will also address wind-generated energy. Davison said large-scale wind turbines will be limited to specific sites.

“For example, the Heartland Community College site has had a large-scale turbine now for many years. And we just want the code to be more specific about how any additional request would be addressed in the future,” Davison said, adding that future sites would likely be limited to heavy manufacturing areas.

The Normal Planning Commission will hear recommendations on the updated zoning code in early April.

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