Solar panels causing some storms

Discussion in 'Environment' started by Shogun, Dec 1, 2009.

  1. Shogun
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    Shogun Free: Mudholes Stomped

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    Even as California and the federal government encourage solar power, homeowners often have to fight homeowners associations for their right to install the systems.

    Ready to chuck his electric bills, Camarillo resident Marc Weinberg last year asked his homeowners association for permission to put solar panels on his roof.

    When the Spanish Hills Homeowners Assn. said no, Weinberg sued the group. Under the state's Solar Rights Act, he argued, a homeowners association can't unreasonably block solar installations.

    Weinberg won, and the Spanish Hills Homeowners Assn. was ordered to not only permit the solar panels but to cover the tens of thousands of dollars that Weinberg had spent on legal fees. Since last fall, when he installed a double row of matte black panels, three other homes in the hilltop neighborhood of luxury estates have added panels.

    "We didn't set out to be green activists," said Weinberg, 39, a real estate attorney. "That's not where we're coming from. We honestly looked at it from a financial standpoint."

    Whether motivated by pocketbook or environmentalism, similar battles between homeowners groups and property owners are cropping up across the state as the installation of solar systems becomes more affordable and utility costs rise.

    Homeowners boards insist that they are protecting property values by enforcing rules that govern everything from paint color to how early trash bins can be set out for collection. But residents say their right to invest in alternative energy trumps the sensibilities of neighbors who don't like how the panels look.

    Results of the battles have been mixed even as the nation is being urged by the Obama administration to embrace alternative energy.

    Santa Clarita homeowner Marty Griffin put solar panels up anyway after his homeowners association rejected his application. The Tesoro Del Valle Homeowners Assn. sued him, and in early November a jury told Griffin the panels should be moved to a more discreet spot on his property.

    Solar installer Bradley Bartz earlier this year threatened a Palos Verdes commun- ity group with legal action after it denied three clients permits to install solar panels. He filed a claim against the city of Torrance after it rejected another client's application. In all four cases, Bartz said, he prevailed.

    Homeowners' main defense is the Solar Rights Act, adopted by California in 1978 to protect consumers' right to install solar energy technology. The law makes it difficult for homeowners groups to reject solar energy equipment unless it creates a safety hazard or a modification can be made without great cost.

    Now, solar advocates are pushing for a federal version of the California law. Energy legislation that moved through the House earlier this year included a provision that would make it illegal for HOA rules, leases or private contracts to prohibit the installation of solar systems.

    It's uncertain whether the Senate will keep the language in its version of the bill, said Raymond Walker, a government affairs spokesman for Standard Renewable Energy, a Houston-based solar installer. As debate continues, solar industry advocates are forming a lobbying group to make sure their voices are heard, Walker said.

    Industry officials say fewer regulatory hassles would speed the growth of jobs and move the nation closer to energy independence, he said.

    "We want to make this into a real industry, and we're trying to make sure the regulatory landscape is clear so this can take off," he said.

    Homeowner and commun- ity groups haven't taken a position on the bill yet. Commun- ity Associations Institute, an education and advocacy group based in Alexandria, Va., said such "green issues" arise regularly in the estimated 300,000 community groups nationwide.

    The institute advises striking a balance between conservation and aesthetics, said spokesman Frank Rathbun.

    Advocates say those who invest in alternative energy should be applauded instead of punished. They ultimately benefit ratepayers by reducing demand on the state's grid, said Adam Browning of Vote Solar, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that promotes the use of solar energy.

    "It's somebody doing their part to reduce peak load," Browning said. "That's the most expensive electricity utilities have to buy."

    California two years ago launched a $3.3-billion effort to increase the use of solar statewide, offering rebates and tax credits to consumers who install energy systems. Since then, the number of homes and businesses with installed solar has more than doubled, growing from 23,000 in 2006 to 52,700, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

    The cost of small solar systems declined 9% in the last year and larger installations have fallen 13%, the PUC said in an October report. Still, the state is far from being on track to its goal of adding 3,000 megawatts in solar panels by 2016, sufficient to power 600,000 homes.

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    Solar panels causing some storms -- latimes.com
     
  2. Xenophon
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    Xenophon Gone and forgotten

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    I wish I could put up panels and get free juice.
     
  3. hjmick
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    hjmick Gold Member

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    I just moved from Camarillo. Nice town, lived there and in the county for many years. That being said, the HOAs in the county (hell, the country as a whole) and the city government itself are real pains in the ass.
     
  4. Vera
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    Vera Rookie

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    Back in 2002 I worked for an evironmentally-conscious electricity company. I loved learning more and more about how to use solar and wind to substitute what we are currently using for our power. I just wish I could afford to install something like that where I live. :-(
     
  5. garyd
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    garyd Senior Member

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    It's all a matter of where you live... Some places solar is great some places wind places wind is great, Some places you'd need both to save enough money to make the intallation of either a worthwhile endeavor. Both are perfectly fine ideas small scale that suck to the max done large scale.
     
  6. Bill O'Olberman
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    Bill O'Olberman Active Member

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    True, but the viability of solar or wind power is not he issue here. The issue is the mentality of NIMBY(not in my back yard). People may say they support the use of alternative energy sources but when it comes to their neighbourhood they oppose the "unsightly" wind turbines and solar panels. People, represented through the HOA, think that such eyes sores will hurt their property value.
     
  7. Darkwind
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    Yep. And Nuclear Power works everywhere!
     
  8. garyd
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    garyd Senior Member

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    Exactly DW and I love to see a lot more money spent on research into fusion power the ultimate energy source.
     
  9. Ringel05
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    Ringel05 Diamond Member

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    DIY Solar Panels - Can Be Built For Less Than $200

    The trick to winning if you HOA is against it is deal with changing the rules first, then install. Do it the other way and you'll likely lose in court.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  10. Vera
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    Vera Rookie

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    People that view things in that way, in my opinion, aren't much interested in anything other than outward appearances anyway. *shrugs* I know the electricity company for which I worked had to do a year-long study before putting up any wind turbines due to flight paths of birds. Birds will not deviate from their flight path, even if something has been built in its way. Therefore, they had to do studies for a full year to make sure no birds were going to fly through where they wanted to put each wind turbine. Talk about a lot of thought and preparation.
     

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