Residents of Lehighton can now install solar panels or windmills to produce their own electricity, provided they comply with zoning regulations.

Last night, the borough council amended its electrical service ordinance which previously had prohibited any private generation of electricity by its customers.

The borough has its own Light and Power Department and purchases electricity wholesale, then resells it to residents and businesses within the town.

The ordinance states that the borough will permit property owners to reduce from their electric bills the value for the amount of electricity self-generated. The borough will not purchase any excess electricity that is generated. The borough will also be in charge of metering.

The amendment states, "Customer service generation will be allowed in the borough subject to the borough of Lehighton technical requirements for customer-owned generation. Such technical requirements may be amended from time to time by Lehighton Borough Council by resolution."

An accompanying resolution was also passed.

Present at the meeting was Michael McDermott of Solar Electric Power Systems, Walnutport, who told the council he has a customer in Lehighton who hopes to install solar panels. He said the zoning officer rejected his request for the solar project.

The council explained that until the new ordinance was passed - which takes effect in five days - there was no customer generated power allowable in the borough.

McDermott was advised to resubmit the proposal and providing that all zoning laws are met, the zoning officer will allow the project. If there is a zoning law problem, then the property owner, Richard Blocker, will have to seek a variance.

"We're saying it is allowed," said council member Melissa Ebbert.

McDermott remarked, regarding the original denial by the zoning officer, "I've been running into this in a lot of boroughs and townships." He added that in rural Lehighton areas he had installed four or five such systems.

He also said that the system such as Blocker wants to install would not provide 100 percent of his electricity needs. He explained that during the day when the sun is shining, the solar panels generate electricity and will send his electric meter running backwards into a deficit. The electricity that is generated is put into the electric grid. In the evening, when he is home using such things as the stove and lighting, the meter will catch up when electricity is pulled from the grid.

It was estimated by McDermott that the solar panels will provide about 75 percent of his customer's electricity requirements.