Know Your Solar Rights

Solar Rights

Most solar owners are aware of tax credits, exemptions, and other incentives available when installing solar. However, those powering their home with clean solar energy should also be aware of policies guaranteeing the rights of solar system owners after the initial system installation.

Known as Solar Rights Acts, these policies typically prohibit unreasonable barriers to solar installation (such as local bans due to aesthetic concerns, or exorbitant permit fees) and generally offer protection from such barriers being imposed in the future by local governments, homeowners associations, and others. Solar Rights Acts exist in virtually all major solar markets and the specific protections offered by each vary.

In one recent case, an REC Solar customer’s system was shaded for a portion of the year by trees owned by the homeowners association, causing a significant reduction in the system’s production. The association refused to trim the trees, even when the homeowner offered to incur the cost. In response, the homeowners pointed to Arizona’s Solar Rights Act, which specifically prohibits association actions which “adversely affect the cost or efficiency of the [solar] device.” While the homeowners ultimately had to involve an attorney to force the issue with the recalcitrant association, the state’s Solar Rights Act gave them firm standing and ultimately allowed them to prevail in seeing the trees trimmed.

Thankfully, as residential and commercial solar grows at near-exponential rates (Q1 2012 saw more solar installed than in all of 2009), these sorts of disputes are becoming increasingly rare. More communities, organizations, and individuals are now familiar with the workings and benefits of solar and no longer working to discourage the installation of solar in their area for reasons surrounding aesthetics, glare, or other issues.

Just another positive indicator that solar is past a key tipping point in terms of long-term viability. Nevertheless, solar owners should familiarize themselves with the Solar Rights Act in your state. Here’s a list of state-to-state statutes, courtesy the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

How you ever encountered an issue that required citing a Solar Rights Act? Share your stories in the comments section below.

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