Solar Panel Opponents Might Be in Your Neighborhood
With the cost of solar panels dropping by 30% in Europe and China launching its first solar panel manufacturing plant in Arizona, it would seem the stage is just about set for solar energy to take off in the US. After all, panels are made more cheaply, last longer (up to 30 years), and there are more manufactures of the individual solar cells. Then there’s also that Federal tax credit which can put 30% of your investment back into your pocket. You’d think the only problem you’d face is getting the panels mounted and plugged-in.
That is until you get a notice from your Home Owners Association to take them down.
Apparently, many HOA’s can’t abide the look of them. They are either too dark, or too architecturally obtrusive and thus threaten real estate values. These are not just isolated incidents but are occurring around the country. While real estate values are nothing to sneeze at during these trouble economic times, many home owners who have put up solar panels have been forced to defend themselves in court against HOA’s enforcing rules that govern everything from paint color to how early trash bins can be set out for collection.
The New York Times Green blog cites John Berger, the chief executive of Standard Renewable Energy, a Houston-based firm that designs and installs solar energy systems for homes and Bounce Energy Partner. He says that homeowner associations’ prohibitions had already cost him more than $1 million in business.
Fortunately, some state legislatures are working to enact provisions in their state’s laws that empower home owners to invest in energy saving solar technology. These not only prohibit laws or ordinances that restrict solar pwer but also allow “solar easements” that provide access to sunlight for solar energy collection.
In California, the 1978 Solar Rights Act protects home owners’ right to install solar energy technology while permitting homeowners groups to reject solar energy equipment only if it is a safety hazard or can be modified without great cost. Texas is also working to limit associations’ right to prohibit use of solar panels by homeowners.
While there are efforts in the works to make home solar energy easier and less costly, a home owner needs to make sure all the bases are covered before beginning an installation –including what the neighbors think. If you belong to a HOA, make sure your solar project will be approved first. Also make sure of your state’s laws covering residential solar energy. That way, you can sort out any issues with your neighbors amicably before you have to do it in court.