Can Solar Panels Be Illegal? Exposing What You Need to Know
Solar panels are a wonder. Set it up, let it face the sun, and you get electricity to power your home. Technically speaking, solar power should be supported since it helps transition to renewable energy.
However, any chance solar panels can be unsupported by some regulators? Can solar panels be illegal?
Generally, solar panel installations are supported by most municipal, state, or federal governments. The general laws around solar panels are to ensure the installations of these panels do not infringe on the rights of other citizens or to protect buildings.
This article explores the topic of how solar panel installations can be illegal. We will also delve into some of the laws about solar panels in certain US states that have them and see how the government is supporting solar panel installations.
Is The Government Supporting Solar Panel Installations?
The US federal government and some state governments support solar panel installations by providing tax credits, grants, and rebates. Some programs allow homeowners to generate revenue from excess power, such as net-metering policies and feed-in tariffs.
As a start, solar energy is supported by many governments worldwide to attempt to transition to renewable energy. You can assume the same with the US government on all levels.
In fact, there are many programs implemented to support homeowners going solar, as well as solar panel installers and producers, such as:
Tax Breaks, Grants, Rebates
The federal government initially provides a 30% investment tax credit for home and commercial solar systems. This helps to lower the installation cost significantly and encourages more homeowners to do so.
The tax cut is expected to reduce the cost of installing rooftop solar by over $7,500 for an average setup. When calculated over the solar system’s lifestyle, this should also help every American home to save up to $9,000 in electricity bills.
Following suit, many states have also introduced solar energy incentives and plans, especially in states with more sunlight, such as those in the southwest. For example, over 36 states offer property tax exemptions for homes with solar panels.
Net Metering Policies
Net metering policies allow excess energy generated from the solar panels to be sent into the grid in exchange for credits on their utility bills. In contrast, performance-based incentives pay for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by the solar system.
Policies like this may make sense to some and encourage them to install solar panels. This is because, with a well-subsidized initial investment, they stand to gain long-term savings from paying lower energy bills.
There are also policies such as feed-in tariffs, where utility companies are, by law, required to purchase excess energy generated from home solar installations. This helps to ensure that people and businesses who invest in solar panels can recoup their costs and earn a return on their investment over time.
Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs)
SRECs are a way where some state governments force energy companies to ensure part of the energy they sell to consumers is renewable. As a result, many of these energy companies turn to homeowners with solar energy and then purchase any excess power from them in cash.
For every 1000 Megawatt-hours you generate, you get one SREC. The energy company can then use the SREC you generated to count towards the clean energy percentage.
Many energy companies try to find ways to increase the amount of clean energy they generate. This resulted in some of them embarking on helping homeowners install solar power systems in exchange for purchasing the power back.
Can Solar Panels Be Illegal?
It is highly unlikely that solar panels are illegal in the United States. In fact, the government has been supporting solar panels by providing support and financial incentives. Certain homeowners associations (HOAs) prohibit solar panel installations, but these are generally illegal and unenforceable.
Generally, you may assume that solar panel installations are acceptable, even encouraged by the government.
However, it does not mean solar panel installations do not cause issues between businesses and homeowners. Take, for example, if you are to install super tall solar panel towers that end up becoming an eyesore to your neighbors.
As a result, some laws try to control and regulate solar panels. These laws, however, stop making solar panels illegal.
Most regulations on things such as requiring application and approvals for the installation of panels or how much power homeowners associations (HOAs) have to regulate solar panels within their neighborhood.
However, local zoning rules or homeowners association regulations may prevent the installation of solar panels in some circumstances.
Some zoning restrictions, for example, may prohibit the installation of solar panels on particular types of buildings, such as historic structures or structures in specific neighborhoods.
Furthermore, some homeowners groups may have enacted regulations that prevent the installation of solar panels on properties within the community.
However, many state laws prohibit such action, which means if any HOA approves such a rule, they are unenforceable and illegal.
Example Of Solar Panel Laws In US States
Most US states have laws regulating solar panel installations, with states such as Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York having more well-described regulations.
|Arizona||If any agreements on the property contain prohibitions on solar energy installation or use, it is null and void. HOAs cannot ban solar energy installation but can regulate certain aspects.|
|California||If any agreements on the property contain prohibitions on solar energy installation or use, it is null and void. HOAs cannot ban solar energy installation but can regulate certain aspects. If HOA rejects a homeowner’s application to install solar energy devices, it must be explained in writing. If there are no written application responses after 45 days, it is automatically considered approved.|
|Florida||If any agreements on the property contain prohibitions on solar energy installation or use, it is null and void. HOAs cannot ban solar energy installation but can regulate certain aspects.|
|Massachusetts||If any agreements on the property contain prohibitions on solar energy installation or use, it is null and void.|
|New York||If any agreements on the property contain prohibitions on solar energy installation or use, it is null and void. HOAs cannot ban solar energy installation but can regulate certain aspects. If HOA rejects a homeowner’s application to install solar energy devices, it must be explained in writing.|
As a start, many US states have some form of regulation on solar panels. This means you should take some time to read up on the legalities and regulations available within your state if you plan to install solar panels yourself.
Arizona’s law protects solar energy in several ways. First, by making it illegal for any property to be bought and sold if the agreement prohibits the installation or use of any solar energy device. This law was enacted in 1979 and remains enforced today.
Another notable law is to remove any rights of HOAs to prohibit the installation of solar energy devices. However, HOAs can exercise certain finer regulations if the rules do not affect solar energy’s efficiency or use.
For example, HOA may set rules such as not allowing solar panels to be installed beyond 40 feet in height. But they cannot regulate the size of the solar panels, which may affect their efficiency. However, the HOA regulations do not apply to condominiums.
Most of California’s solar energy regulations can be found in California’s Solar Rights Act of 1978. As a start, it also makes it illegal for any property to be bought and sold if the agreement prohibits installing or using any solar energy device.
The law also specifies that if a property owner applies to install solar panels, the application must be treated similarly to an architectural modification. Any acceptance and denial must be replied to in writing.
The application is considered approved if there are no writing denial issues within 45 days of application. California also has laws that regulate HOAs’ ability to control solar panel installations.
In short, HOAs cannot ban installations of any solar energy device. Still, they may regulate it on aspects such as approving only certain types of solar energy devices, providing maintenance, and requiring homeowners to apply for approval before installing solar panels.
If you reside in Florida, look up the state’s Solar Access Law 1980 for information about solar energy regulations in the state. It generally functions similarly to California’s law, with minor modifications here and there.
It is illegal in Florida for any property to be bought and sold if the agreement prohibits installing or using any solar energy device. This law also extends to renewable energy devices like wind energy systems.
The law also prohibits any HOAs from banning or not allowing their residents to install solar energy devices. However, HOAs may control things such as:
- Where the panels are installed, as long as they point south
- Collectively install a solar energy device
- Installing panels on common areas.
Massachusetts may not be a sunny place suited for solar energy generation. Still, surprisingly they have laws that regulate solar energy use.
However, the laws they have are less comprehensive than Arizona or California. Massachusetts only has rulings that will void any agreement on property transfer, if:
- It prohibits the installation or use of any solar energy device.
- Places unreasonable restrictions on the installation or use of any solar energy device.
New York also has some notable legal rulings about solar energy, focusing on protecting property owners’ rights to install and use solar energy.
Suppose any legally binding document attempts to prohibit installing or using rooftop solar systems with a power capacity of up to 25 kilowatts. In New York state, it becomes null and void.
The new rule also expressly addresses HOAs, banning them from enacting policies that effectively prohibit or put unreasonable limitations on building or using solar power systems.
Under the statute, “unreasonable limitations” include any restrictions that:
- Prevent the system from operating at its intended maximum efficiency
- Increase the system’s installation or maintenance expenses by more than 10% of the system’s initial installation cost, including labor and equipment.
However, HOAs in New York can place restrictions on installing the systems on property held by the HOA or in common by the HOA’s members.
Suppose the HOA denies the installation of solar panels. In that case, a written denial must be given, with a detailed explanation for the decision.
A solar panel system can be legally installed in most US states, but there are certain regulations and policies that you should be aware of before making the decision to invest in solar energy.
The government is actively supporting the development of solar energy through various incentives and subsidies, such as tax breaks, grants, rebates, net metering policies, and Feed-in Tariff programs.
Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) can be purchased or sold in certain states.
It is important to research your local laws regarding the installation of solar panels to ensure that your project is compliant with all applicable regulations.
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