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You Can Get Solar Panels Even in an HOA… Here’s How

Homeowners associations’ can’t say no to solar in a growing number of places. Here’s what to know based on where you live.

High energy prices are one reason why it pays to go solar now, and people are doing so at record-setting paces. But there are always reasons some people can’t adopt solar at home. Renters might not be able to make such a big improvement to their homes and people living in shaded or otherwise unsuitable homes may turn to other solar solutions, like community solar. If you live in an HOA, you might worry you fall into that group.

HOAs, or homeowners associations, exert a certain amount of control over what can and can’t happen in a neighborhood. Moving into one of these neighborhoods requires joining the HOA, which collects fees to keep up certain community amenities, like swimming pools or playgrounds. But HOAs can also have a say in what your house looks like and what improvements you can make. That means they can have a say in your new solar panel systems. While recent court decisions and laws in some states are making it harder for HOAs to block solar panels around the country, if you’re a part of one, there are a few things you should know.

Besides getting a grasp on what your HOA has to say about solar, you’ll want to know a few other things as you shop for solar panels, including where to look for solar panels, how to pay for solar panels, and whether the timing is right to install solar panels.

Does an HOA get to decide if I can have solar panels?

The short answer is that it depends where you live. Some states have passed laws or had court rulings that say HOAs can’t keep people from installing solar panels. For example, in June, the North Carolina Supreme Court decided that HOAs can’t block solar projects and in March the Indiana legislature passed a law limiting HOAs’ power.

But not all states have so-called solar rights laws that guarantee HOA residents the right to install solar panels. Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming don’t have such laws, according to the Community Associations Institute. Members of HOAs in these states don’t have much legal leverage when it comes to installing solar.

On the other side of the spectrum are states that have passed solar rights laws, which guarantee an HOA resident’s right to install solar panels. Arizona, California, Colorado, DC, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin fall into this camp.

Many of these state laws give HOAs the authority to make changes to a solar installation, but not block it outright. The Indiana law does this by allowing residents to collect signatures from their neighbors in support of their solar panels and override the HOA’s objections. A law in Illinois says HOAs can’t ban solar installations but can adjust their placement as long as it doesn’t reduce the expected production by 10% or more.

The remaining states have solar easement laws, which allow you to enter into an agreement with your neighbors that guarantee your access to the sunlight and solar panels. Solar easements, while allowed by these laws, are themselves voluntary agreements between you and your neighbor or HOA. While you aren’t guaranteed to have unfettered access to the sun for generating solar power, they can ensure you keep access once it’s agreed to.

How do I get permission to install solar panels from my HOA?

Because laws vary from state to state and policies vary between HOAs, there’s no one answer for all situations. There are a few best practices, though. 

First, you’ll want to make sure of your rights under state law. If your state has a solar access law on the books, make sure you understand what, if any, restrictions your HOA can put on your solar system. Some state laws also include stipulations for how fast an HOA must respond to or approve your project. You’ll also want to study your HOA’s rules and regulations so you know if there are policies that work to your benefit there. In North Carolina, the recent lawsuit was rooted in state law and the HOA’s regulations. Depending on what they say, your HOA’s regulations could play in your favor.

Solar United Neighbors, a nonprofit that helps people go solar, also suggests gathering the support of your neighbors who are in favor of solar in their community.

If you need an HOA’s permission to go solar, it’s likely going to take a bit longer. Be sure to factor that time in, especially if you’re on a tight schedule.

In many states, you’ll be able to go solar even if you live in an HOA, though you may need to jump through a few more hoops. In other places, it might take a strong argument.


Article by: Andrew Blok

Via: https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/you-can-get-solar-panels-even-in-an-hoa-heres-how/

solar panels

President Biden To Waive Tariffs For 24 Months On Solar Panels Hit By Probe

President Joe Biden will declare a 24-month tariff exemption on Monday for solar panels from four Southeast Asian nations after an investigation froze imports and stalled projects in the United States, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The move comes amid concern about the impact of the Commerce Department’s months-long investigation into whether imports of solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam are circumventing tariffs on goods made in China.

Biden’s action would allay companies’ concerns about having to hold billions of dollars in reserves to pay potential tariffs, one source familiar with the White House’s plans said.

“There is going to be this safe harbor timeout on the … collection of duties, and that’s at the heart of what’s going to save all of these solar projects and ensure that they are going forward,” the source said.

Biden also will invoke the Defense Production Act to drive U.S. manufacturing of solar panels and other clean energy technologies in the future, with the support of loans and grants, the sources said.

State governors, lawmakers, industry officials, and environmentalists have expressed concern over the investigation, which could have led to retroactive tariffs of up to 250 percent.

The issue created a unique dilemma for the White House, which is eager to show U.S. leadership on climate change, in part by encouraging the use of renewable energy, while respecting and keeping its distance from the investigation proceedings.

Using executive action and invoking the DPA, which gives presidents some authority over domestic industries, allows Biden to take advantage of the tools available to him without stepping on the Commerce Department inquiry.

A second source said Biden’s proclamation, relying on authority from a 1930 trade law, would apply only to the four countries and run in parallel with the investigation.

Depending on its outcome, tariffs could be levied on panels imported after the 24-month period, but the threat of retroactive payments would be off the table, the source added.

“If you bring the stuff in during that 24-month period, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, there will not be those additional duties,” the second source said.

The investigation essentially halted the flow of solar panels that make up more than half of U.S. supplies and 80 percent of imports.

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It had a chilling effect on the industry, according to clean energy groups, some of which asked Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to dismiss it. Raimondo has said she had no discretion to influence it.

“The president’s action is a much-needed reprieve from this industry-crushing probe,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement.

“During the two-year tariff suspension window, the U.S. solar industry can return to rapid deployment while the Defense Production Act helps grow American solar manufacturing.”

Announced at the end of March, the investigation could take 150 days or more to complete.

Biden has previously invoked the DPA to tackle a shortage of infant formula in the United States, ramp up domestic output of key minerals for electric vehicle batteries, and fight the COVID-19 pandemic through tests and vaccine production.

“It is a tool to do what we obviously desperately need to do, which is rapidly grow the domestic manufacturing capacity” of solar panels,” the second source familiar with the matter said.

The administration was “very focused on making sure there are reliable and resilient supply chains at this critical moment for our energy sector, for our ability to support our consumers and to tackle the climate crisis,” he added.

Ramping up renewable energy such as solar is crucial to Biden’s goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030, versus 2005 levels, as well as decarbonizing the U.S. power grid by 2035.

The Commerce Department inquiry has prompted 19 state governors, 22 U.S. senators, and dozens of members of the House of Representatives to express concern in letters to Biden.

“Initiation of this investigation is already causing massive disruption in the solar industry, and it will severely harm American solar businesses and workers and increase costs for American families as long as it continues,” said one letter signed by senators including Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico, and Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina.


Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Via: https://www.reuters.com/world/us/exclusive-biden-use-executive-action-spark-stalled-solar-projects-amid-tariff-2022-06-06/

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Stunning aerial photographs show the impressive solar infrastructures that will soon power the whole world

What will the world of the future look like?

It’s a question that’s increasingly inescapable in the era of global warming, or, as scientists increasingly call it, the Anthropocene: a world shaped by humans, the machines we use, and the pollution those emit—a world of anthropogenic change.

The war in Ukraine is exposing in harsh terms the world’s continued heavy reliance on old-school fossil fuels, as gas prices skyrocket with the U.S. banning the imports of Russian oil. What would it actually look like if alternative energy sources were truly embraced on a global scale?

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The Gemasolar thermosolar power plant in Fuentes de Andalucia, Spain, can generate enough power to supply 27,500 households, according to SENER Energy. Credit: Tom Hegen

This is the question at the heart of German aerial photographer and artist Tom Hegen’s latest body of work, The Solar Power Series, which explores what the earth’s surface could look more and more like if we solely use the sun’s power to satisfy our hunger for energy.

It’s staggering to think about how much energy is effectively wasted from lack of proper utilization of solar power. The amount of power from the sun that strikes the earth in a single hour is more than the entire world consumes in a year, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The landscapes that Hegen captures could become the norm, if we humans as a collective group make it a priority to alter our current interaction with the world.

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Hegen describes the panels at Ivanpah “like a mecca of mirrors, a concert crowd, pointing their smartphone lights to their idol. The chaos in the mirrors resembles quite an individuality of robotic machines.” Credit: Tom Hegen

This edited Q&A has been condensed for space and clarity.

What story do you hope to tell the world in your Solar Power Series?

Hegen:
 A lot of my work is based on the topic of the Anthropocene. It’s the proposed current era in which humans have become the most significant factor influencing the earth’s geological, ecological, and atmospheric processes. Climate change is only one of the real-world problems caused by human activities. I want to visualize our interaction with nature. I document places we all connect to since we all benefit from the resources extracted, gained, or processed at those particular places. My latest body of work is around energy transformation from burning fossil energies to more sustainable solutions.

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Aerial view of Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in California early in the morning. Credit: Tom Hegen

Where do you take us in your latest project?

Among the locations featured in The Solar Power Series are Ivanpah (California), Crescent Dune (Nevada), Les Mées (France), Planta Solar (near Seville, Spain), and Gemasolar (also near Seville). Most of these solar power production sites are kind of pilot projects and first of their kind constructed within the past 15 years. Those round, center-oriented constructions are solar thermal power plants. Thousands of mirrors called heliostats concentrate the sun’s energy to a tower that heats molten salt. The salt can reach very high temperatures and hold the heat even after the sun has gone down. The heat is used to boil water and drive a steam turbine that generates electricity in large quantities.

And this could be a very fruitful solution. Water, wind, and sun provide a tremendous amount of energy. The question is, how do we transform the energy into power that we can make use of, bringing it to places where we need it and having it available whenever we need it.

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Aerial view of Stateline Solar Farm in San Bernadino County, California. Credit: Tom Hegen

How does aerial photography change the way you view the world from this bird’s-eye view?

Aerial photography, to me, is like data visualization for scientists. The elevated perspective has such a remarkable ability to show the scale and context of a landscape. I also enjoy the abstraction and aestheticization that comes with changing the perspective. There is no time for me to experience the landscape and see all its details [when up in the air]. When I come back from production and look at the images on a large monitor, I have a second encounter with the landscape and can explore all the details in the scenery.

[Aerial photography] shows dimensions and reveals insights we wouldn’t be able to see from the ground. None of the places I photograph have been intentionally designed to be viewed from the air and make visual sense. This demonstrates that we are all artists, creating on the canvas of the earth’s surface. In this context, I see myself as a curator looking at places that we have drastically altered.

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Siemens Energy’s Les Mées solar farm in France is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, with panels built into the rolling hills of the southern European Alps. Credit: Tom Hegen

Where do you see solar power going in the upcoming decade? Will we fall short in sustaining our world, or will any action help?

To keep the planet a place worth living [on], we need to protect its resources and the state of nature. For the transformation from extracting and burning fossil fuels and polluting our air to more sustainable options, solar energy has the power to play a significant role. However, I assume it can’t be the only option. We need to find multiple ways of providing more clean energy, and yes, every step toward it helps.

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Aerial view of the Crescent Dunes, a Nevada solar energy plant that went bust after receiving a $737 million federal loan guarantee. Credit: Tom Hegen

For more of Hegen’s work, check out his website and Instagram.


Article by: ALEX SCIMECCA & NICK LICHTENBERG

Via: https://fortune.com/2022/03/10/aerial-photographs-show-solar-infrastructures-that-will-soon-power-the-world/