We live in an HOA (a homeowner’s association). I wish we didn’t. But we’re stuck in an HOA for the foreseeable future thanks to the slide in real estate prices in many parts of the U.S., which means we’d take a $30,000 loss on the modest, single-family home we bought in 2005 if we sold it tomorrow.
To me, an HOA means extra fees to pay. Worse, it means ridiculous, staid, rigid, and sometimes totally backward regulations.
HOA rules supposedly are in place to help keep collective property values from sliding.
But if this were truly the case, HOAs would welcome solar — which clearly increases property values — rather than push what amounts to a regressive, anti-green agenda against solar. (Sorry, HOAs, your “intent” doesn’t matter here — if you block solar, you are, through your actions, being anti-green.)
I actually don’t know what the specific rules are regarding solar in our own HOA here in Aurora, Colo. — and I didn’t know we would want to put solar on our home when we moved in in 2005. I do know that two homes in our HOA do have solar systems, both solar-thermal systems clearly installed in the 1980s.
However we will be the first in our neighborhood with a solar-PV system when REC Solar installs what we hope will be a 5.5 kW array on our roof in June (see ‘What comes first — the EV or the solar system’ for why the word ‘hope’ is inserted here). With more than two dozen solar panels, it will be far larger than the two solar thermal systems in our area, the biggest of which is five panels.
Personally, I think solar panels are beautiful. They are sleak and shiny. And they add a modern look to what otherwise is a typically pretty average — dare I say ugly — asphalt shingle roof (most single-family roofs in the U.S. are asphalt shingle roofs). In fact, how/why a puke brown or snot-green asphalt shingle roof is somehow prettier or more asthetically appealing than a set of evenly spaced, perfectly aligned and often completely symmetrical, sleek, shiny and futuristic solar panels is beyond me.
So, frankly, I’m a bit worried about how our HOA will respond when we formally file a plan with them in April sometime. I do know, however, that we have Colorado law on our side. State law prohbits HOAs from preventing homeowners from installing solar systems on their homes, though HOAs do have some say in how a homeowner’s solar system can be designed.
Still, I have read — and heard from our REC Solar consultant — that some Colorado HOAs have sought to make life hard for homeowners who want to put solar on a home in their domain. And, it’s certainly possible we’ll face some problems.
I hope we don’t — but, of course, if we do, me being the activist I am, I’m willing to take things as far as we need to in order to get solar — even if means having to go to court.
[Note to my HOA: If you try to block us from putting solar panels on our house, I’m well connected in the Denver media community and I can guarantee you that my story will be covered in at least one, if not more, major broadcast television outlets. I’m betting that you, my HOA, won’t look so good for trying to prevent me from cleaning up the ugliest thing in Denver — its brown, toxic soup of pollution — by solar-powering our home electric and an electric car. Additionally, with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter having just signed a bill which requires that 30 percent of Colorado’s electricity come from renewable energy forms by 2020, you will be standing in the way of a concerted political and legal drive to do the right thing, meaning the greening of Colorado’s electricity production and the cleaning of our air.]
I don’t think we’ll have to go to court to get a solar system up on our roof — but you never know. It does happen
For instance, right now in Texas — not exactly a hotbed for solar with less than one percent of its total electricity currently being generated by solar — an HOA is suing a homeowner who put up solar panels on his house in what the HOA claims is a violation of its covenant.
An Asscociated Press story on the unfolding conflict quotes a woman who lives behind the house on which the panels have been installed as saying the panels are an “eyesore.”
Few things steam me more than the backward claim that solar panels are “ugly.”
Personally, I think solar panels are beautiful. They are sleak and shiny. And they add a modern look to what otherwise is a typically pretty average — dare I say ugly — asphalt shingle roof (most single-family roofs in the U.S. are asphalt shingle roofs). In fact, how/why a puke brown or snot-green asphalt shingle roof is somehow prettier or more asthetically appealing than a set of evenly spaced, perfectly aligned, symmetrical, sleek, shiny and futuristic solar panels is beyond me.
Beyond the direct aethestics, solar is beautiful for many different reasons.
Here are a few:
- It increases the value of a home, and, logically, thereby increases the value of homes around it — for example, an increasing number of the ritziest houses in Boulder, Colo. (we’re talking about million-dollar homes) have solar panels on them;
- It helps homeowners save money;
- It helps homeowners potentially achieve near total electric independence;
- Solar systems reduce the need for destructive coal mining practices such as mountain-top removal;
- In contrast to fossil fuel forms, often transported thousands of miles to get to the power plant, solar systems produce energy right where it is needed — on the home that will be using the electricity;
- Solar systems reduce local air pollution — especially if they are used to partially, or fully, power an EV;
What’s uglier: A solar system — OR asthma, lung cancer, heart disease and the death of human beings from air-pollution induced maladies?
What’s uglier: A solar system — OR the razing of moutaintops in W. Virginia?
What’s ugiler: A solar system — OR the growing presence of mercury, which has been proven to cause serious health problems in humans, especially in babies, in our water and our air?
What’s uglier: A solar system — or the specter of global warming and rising sea levels? (A disputed island off the coast of India and Bangledesh was recently swallowed by the ocean.)
What’s uglier: A solar system — or Denver’s brown cloud — or L.A.’s or Hong Kong’s infamous polluting hazes, or the general pollution that all of us breathe in every day? (Hong Kong recently broke records for its highest level of air pollution ever, according to The New York Times.)
What’s uglier: A solar system — or individuals blinded by their own narrow-minded notions about what is, and is not, aesthetically pleasing and who cannot see the bigger, cleaner, prettier, healthier picture home solar systems so clearly will bring us?
Finally, what’s uglier: A solar system — or the short-sightedness and small-mindedness of HOAs who seek to block solar systems on home roofs, and thereby end up blocking a cleaner, healthier world for us all?
Additional reading on HOAs & Solar
- Solar Energy Industries Association page on Restrictive Covenants/HOA Rules
- Homeowner’s Associations: The Enemy of Solar? (New York Times online, May 2009)
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency: Incentives & Policies for Solar
- Astralux Power Systems Explanation of the Colorado Solar Energy Access Law
- Arizona Solar Energy Convenant Restrictions
- California Solar Rights Act
- Colorado HOAs warm to solar gear, energy saving residents (The Denver Post, June 2009)
- Flower Mound (Texas) HOA Tries to Ban Solar Power (March 2010)
- Do HOAs impede green progress? Part II
- Scoping out our roof for solar
- Solar erases endless electric rate hikes
- Solar FAQs
- Solar leasing vs. buying