Friday, January 27, 2017
Bethlehem's ZHB Unanimously Denies Homeowner a Solar Panel Variance
The reason for this denial is because Assistant Fire Chief Craig Baer made an unusual appearance and testified that this three feet setback is a matter of safety. He explained that when a one or two-story home is on fire, the first thing firefighters do is break a hole in the roof to act as a vent. If a solar panel is too close to the edge, that could endanger their lives. In addition to limiting access, it exposes them to the danger of electrocution,especially when thee are solar shingles that often go unnoticed. Thy also run the risk of tripping at a solar rood display, and the increased weight makes structural collapse more likely. In addition, solar batteries exposed to a fire emit caustic fumes.
According to Baer, technology is advancing faster than fire codes and zoning ordinances.
Last September, firefighters were forced to watch a 300,000 sq ft Dietz and Watson warehouse in Burlington County, NJ, literally go up in smoke because the 7,000 solar panels on its roof made it too risky for them.
After the hearing, Chief Baer and Zelinski agreed to work together to come up with a new configuration so that the homeowner can go green while firefighters are assured they will be safe if they are ever needed.