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Clean Energy

Helping Homeowner Associations expand solar access, energy security

solar panels on houseHomeowner Associations (HOAs) play an important role in guiding standards for their communities that maintain and enhance character and value. Recent advances in the way individual homeowners secure energy have put undue strain on HOA board members to learn technical standards and techniques at a time when they’d rather be firing up the grill or spending time with family.

“Energy security is now accessible to everyone,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy. “The dramatic drop in the price of solar energy is all over the news. But while solar is simple and straightforward for homeowners to install, HOAs are burdened with the complexity of incorporating rooftop solar into their architectural design standards.”

Today, most HOA board members have little experience with solar energy. As a result, when an individual homeowner applies for approval to put solar on his or her roof, the HOA board’s answer is often a simple “no,” or no answer at all. This leads to market uncertainty, red tape, and in some cases, litigation.

That’s a problem, according to Lynn Hinkle, policy director of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association. “This is something we need to address sooner rather than later,” Hinkle said. “Solar costs are continuing to fall, and we’re expecting to see a 30-fold increase in solar adoption within the next six years. No homeowner should be excluded from the benefits of installed solar.”

A bill currently before the Minnesota Legislature would help HOAs throughout Minnesota.

HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATION SOLAR DESIGN STANDARDS

According to the bill’s author, Representative Will Morgan (DFL – 63B), HF2918 seeks to establish clear guidelines for the permitting of rooftop solar projects (including solar thermal and photovoltaic) by HOA boards, allowing HOAs to impose reasonable restrictions while at the same time removing barriers to solar energy. “This bill respects and affirms the important role that HOAs play in ensuring that modifications by one homeowner do not harm their neighbors,” said Morgan. “At the same time, it also gives homeowners who are solely responsible for their own roof a clear and fair process for securing HOA approval of a rooftop solar energy system.”

The bill, which applies only to HOA homeowners that own and insure their own roof, would allow HOA boards to do the following:

  • impose reasonable restrictions on the size, location, design, and appearance of a proposed rooftop solar energy system
  • safeguard the economic interests of other HOA members
  • deny applications for unsuitable projects, including ground- or wall-mounted systems

According to the Solar Foundation, at least 22 other states (including Colorado, Illinois, and Wisconsin) have already adopted similar legislation. HF2918 furthers Minnesota’s existing state policy, such as the recently adopted solar energy standard, while allowing more Minnesota homeowners to access the economic benefits of going solar.

On April 22, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed HF2918 bill with strong bipartisan support. These commonsense guidelines will help HOAs maintain a high quality of life while putting energy security within reach of every community.

Homeowner Associations (HOA) play an important role in guiding standards for their communities that maintain and enhance character and value. Recent advances in the way individual homeowners secure energy have put undue strain on HOA board members to learn technical standards and techniques at a time when they’d rather be firing up the grill or spending time with family.

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