Monday, November 30, 2009

Solar Panels Pit Homeowners Against Homeowners' Associations

It's happening in California, in Minnesota, and in Texas. In New Jersey, Arizona, and Maryland. And probably in a state close to you.

Homeowners' associations are forbidding solar-minded homeowners to put solar panels on their roofs. Homeowners, steamed at being told they can't be environmentally responsible or save money through solar power, are retaliating with lawsuits. And they're usually winning.

A story in the Los Angeles Times tells about the travails of a resident of Camarillo, Calif., whose homeowners' association denied him permission to install solar panels on his home.

He sued, invoking California's 1978 Solar Rights Act. And won. He went ahead with his solar panels, and now 3 other houses in the community have solar panels on their roofs too.

The issue of homeowners' groups resisting solar panels has been an ongoing one. The groups sometimes prevail, but in the long run they're fighting a losing battle. As GE's residential power systems website reassures customers, "Many states prohibit homeowners' associations from restricting solar devices."

Solar panels have been growing in popularity as their prices have dropped and utility rates have increased, according to the L.A. Times story. Many solar companies now allow you to lease solar panels, significantly reducing the cash outlay required to start enjoying solar power.

The House of Representatives passed an energy bill this year that made it illegal for homeowners' groups to prohibit the installation of solar systems. Let's see if the Senate follows suit.

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