In this exclusive interview with SolarChargedDriving.Com, Tim Adams, an Omaha, Neb., homeowner and orthodontist whose HOA is suing him for installing a solar system on his home talks about his commitment to solar, a better world, and the challenges he’s faced in this showdown, which, among other things, has seen Adams pay thousands of dollars to advertise his case on a giant billboard off of Interstate 80.
Tim Adams: To reduce our dependence on foreign oil (which should make it more difficult for our government to rationalize military action to protect our national interests or energy supply), to reduce pollution, to reduce scarring our earth by oil spills, coal strip mining, etc. to reduce the loss of human life associated with coal mining, to reduce my energy bills, to act as a model for others to follow, to promote economic growth, and see to our children’s future (I have 8 kids).
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Tell us about your system – what size is it, how many panels, how many and what types of inverters does it have, who installed it, and when was it installed?
Tim Adams: I have 6.8 kW system that consists of 36 Sharp 235 watt black panels with 36 Enphase microinverters that monitor the performance of each solar panel as well as convert DC to AC. The system was installed in Fall 2011 by Nebraska Solar and Wind Power.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Why didn’t you seek HOA approval before installing the system?
Tim Adams: I didn’t know I had to get prior permission or approval before installing the solar array. My neighbors and I have for years completed many major external improvements to our homes all with the knowledge of a Board member (HOA president and now approvals chair) two doors down from me. At no time did he inform any of us that we needed prior permission or approval as per the covenants.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: How did your neighbors react when the system was installed?
Tim Adams: My neighbors adjacent to me have no problem with the panels. The only reason that some homeowners in the neighborhood started complaining was that they bought into the Board’s propaganda that the solar panels will reduce the neighborhood’s property values and homeowners’ ability to sell their homes because they are “ugly”.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Some people might say: Just move to a neighborhood that’s not part of an HOA – what’s your response?
Tim Adams: For years no one informed us that we even bought a house that was part of an HOA. My wife and I have spent thousands to update our home and we love it. It is our home and we are staying put. No unreasonable and authoritarian Board is going to bully us or intimidate us into moving.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Why did you use a billboard to advertise your case?
Tim Adams: Billboard advertising is very effective in reaching a lot of eyeballs, especially on the interstate leading to downtown.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: The billboard helped draw local and national media coverage of your case. Approximately how many responses have you received from Nebraska – and from farther away – and have the responses been generally favorable or unfavorable?
Tim Adams: Hundreds have signed the electronic petition on the website or responded to articles on media outlets’ websites or visited the Facebook page. Ninety percent have been favorable. Ten percent basically state I broke a covenant rule and should be punished. But they assume I am the only one who has ever broken a covenant rule by not getting prior permission in our HOA. The comments of these 10 percent are basically very nasty and self-righteous.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: How has this affected your personal life – you, and your family, must be living under a high amount of pressure? Is it worth it?
Tim Adams: Sure it is stressful. But fighting back for what is right actually helps reduce the stress. It also helps that my kids and wife support my actions and are proud of me for not backing down and fighting for their futures. You bet it is worth it. It is not what we acquire in this life that defines us but what we do with our lives to effect positive changes to make this world a better place for all.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What about your professional life?
Tim Adams: My patients keep telling me to not give in and fight the good fight. They have said they are proud of my effort as well. This nonsense has not affected my professional life at all.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Have you researched other HOA-solar cases, both past and current? What have you learned from them, and, perhaps, how might they be useful in terms of helping other homeowners who want to go solar, but who live in HOAs that are hostile to solar?
Tim Adams: Homeowners, who wish to go solar, who live in a state that does not have solar access rights laws and live in an HOA that is not open to permitting solar are basically screwed. I am involved in a lawsuit for I and many others were unaware of the restrictive nature of our HOA covenants and because my HOA Board refuses to be reasonable and refuses to admit that it has been very inconsistent in following the covenants and educating residents about the covenants. But for someone who is aware of the covenants and has a Board that has consistently upheld them and goes ahead with solar anyway, he/she will lose the case. The only avenue is to seek a city ordinance for solar access rights first for it is less bureaucratic than your state legislature.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What do you think will happen in your case – is there any possibility to reach a compromise before it goes to court?
Tim Adams: Still too early to tell. Both sides have cases. It will depend on the judge and his/her views on homeowner rights vs. association rights, whether the HOA acted reasonably and consistently in regard to the covenants, etc.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What efforts have you made to push for legal changes, both locally, and on the state level, that would ensure HOA homeowners have the right to install solar on their roof?
Tim Adams: My website has information for individuals to become involved and informed regarding this issue. I have spoken with city council members, state legislators, activist groups, etc. It is really now up to them to act or not.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Nebraska, along with most of the other “breadbasket” states, and more than a few deep south states form the majority of the 27 states which do not have solar rights provisions ensuring homeowners have the right to install solar on their rooftops, even if they live in an HOA. Do you think Nebraska – and much of the breadbasket/American South are anti-solar?
Tim Adams: Not so much anti-solar but just very conservative (very Republican). Older, conservative individuals don’t like change and most are not open to new ways of thinking or doing. If you get those individuals into positions of power (senator, councilman, mayor, HOA Board, etc.), change doesn’t happen, be it good or bad.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Okay, this is a softball 😉 What’s uglier — coal or home solar, and why?
Tim Adams: No brainer! The train cars full of coal being carted through the city and the huge coal burning plants with smoke bellowing out their smoke stacks are breath-taking (pun intended).
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What’s the best way to persuade Americans, especially in places such as Nebraska that arguably are not (yet) on the solar progressive edge, that home solar is the future?
Tim Adams: That is a tough one. But really the only way is to provide information that highlights the benefits of solar energy and refutes false claims about solar. The internet provides the means by which to spread that information, uncensored and brutally honest, unlike our politicians and mainstream news media.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: You recently noted that you plan to buy a Chevy Volt and power it via home solar-generated electricity, what inspired you to make this decision?
Tim Adams: I have been planning this for two years and following the Volt’s evolution. It just makes logical and practical sense. Create your own clean energy that runs your home and car. In the long run, money will be saved and the economy and environment benefit as well. Energy provided by fossil fuels will only increase in cost as supply decreases and our population increases.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Do you think the fact that you’ll be solar-charging a car, not just your house, will help more of your neighbors – and others — to take your perspective?
Tim Adams: I think so but it will take time and younger generations moving into the neighborhood.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: What do you think American public opinion on the issue of HOAs preventing homeowners from installing solar on their homes is (have you found any surveys/polls on this)?
Tim Adams: With my internet research and individuals responding to news articles that are highlighted on my website, 90% of the public is outraged by it. But I continue to learn a very depressing lesson: Human beings are very willing and able to bitch about an injustice or wrong. But when it comes to actually doing something to make a change or take a stand, most fade back into the shadows of indifference, self-preservation and self-interest.
To support Tim Adams in his quest for solar rights in Nebraska, check out –>
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Is change on the way? What will it take to usher in this change, and how long will it take?
Tim Adams: We need federal legislation similar to that which passed the House in 2009 but stalled in the Senate. But as long as the Republicans hold the House and oil, coal, etc. continue to lobby legislatures and fund campaigns, change will be slow and frustrating.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: We’ve seen more than a few online posts on web sites having to do with solar and/or electric cars in which readers have said they did not install solar in part because their HOA does not allow them to do so. What advice would you offer to others who want to go solar but who live in an HOA opposes solar on homes?
Tim Adams: Move to an HOA solar friendly community or non-HOA community.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Do you have anything you would like to add?
Tim Adams: Never stop fighting the good fight. And during times when it seems hopeless, look into your little girl’s or little boy’s innocent eyes. There, you will remember why you fight the good fight at all. The reason looks so unconditionally and so lovingly back into your eyes with absolute trust that you will take care of them.
SolarChargedDriving.Com: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by SolarChargedDriving.Com – and best of luck in your quest to keep solar on your roof!
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