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How does the Preservation Board deal with solar panels on historic homes?

Mike Desmond

Something old and something new in a historic Buffalo neighborhood, often known for rowdy behavior.

Allentown has long had a reputation for raucous behavior, even as housing prices in the Bohemian neighborhood have skyrocketed.

It is also a residential neighborhood with some fine housing on side streets. It is a historic district, which means there are restrictions on what can be done to a home or piece of property, without approval from City Hall. That can vary from materials used on the outside of the house to roofing material.

It is now starting to include solar panels. Buffalo Solar Solutions' Liam McMahon was in front of the city's Preservation Board board for a permit to put solar panels on an Elmwood Avenue home for all the electricity the house needs.

"We usually replace or exchange the customer's meters," McMahon said. "So a regular homeowner's meter only spins in one direction when they are consuming electricity. Now when your PV system starts generating electricity, you need a bi-directional meter which spins backwards so it will credit your account."

"Up to 110 percent of our customer's energy needs," said McMahon. "So they'll send us their monthly electric bill, whether it be through National Grid or NYSEG and we size it off of that. So we get them to at least 100, most of the time. In some cases, with bigger systems, we get to 70 or 80 percent offset, but mostly we aim to get them at least 100 percent."

Because the roof is out of sight, the project slid through. The meeting also considered a permit to build a fence and gate to keep bad behavior - including drug use - from going on in a dark area among garbage totes along Wadsworth Street. Zimsala CEO Bill Zimmermann said there is a night-time problem.

"It's a wonderful place, most of the time," Zimmerman said. "In nefarious hours, you will have all kinds of activity. We have found hypodermic needles among the totes and certainly easy access to finding cans and leaving other items and other nefarious activity."

Zimmermann received permission for his fence, but has to come back about the gate because there was no design drawing.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.