Solar Access Research
Solar access rights refer to the rights of individuals to access useful solar energy on their own property. Despite the fact that more than 90% of Americans support using more solar energy, some local jurisdictions allow individuals or groups to effectively veto property owners’ use of solar energy systems on their homes or businesses. Whether in the form of excessive local fees or opaque and undemocratic approval processes, in many communities there are significant roadblocks to solar that unfairly restrict individuals’ energy choices. Solar access laws seek to remove these market barriers by ensuring that, for example, a local homeowner’s association (HOA) board can’t stop you from installing solar panels on your house by falsely claiming that they reduce property values. Or that they’re ugly. Or for no reason at all.
Most states have some kind of provision addressing solar access or related issues, though the statutes vary widely in effectiveness. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) has an excellent solar access policy guide, which outlines the major components of an effective solar access law. It also has up-to-date state policy maps and information on current incentives.
Strong solar access laws prevent HOA’s and local governments from blocking or significantly increasing the cost of most residential and commercial solar installations. Around twenty states have these types of laws. Another dozen or so states have weaker solar easement statutes, which allow parties to voluntarily establish rights to sunlight on certain properties. These laws are helpful, but lack the legal force to have much practical effect in the face of solar opponents.
TSF works closely with SEIA and other solar organizations to monitor and track the effectiveness of solar access laws in the United States.
The news clip below is from KARE-Channel 11, Minneapolis, MN and depicts one homeowner’s legal battle with his HOA to put solar panels on his roof.