An Inside Look at Solar Laws

The cost of energy is reaching an all-time high. High demand and environmental concerns have led to a revolution as to how many people think about energy generation and consumption. As consumers look for environmentally friendly methods to save money, solar power generation has become an increasingly popular answer.

California legislators support renewable solar power and have codified this support by enacting both the Solar Rights Act and the Solar Shade Control Act. As rooftop solar panels become increasingly popular, both government agencies and consumers must familiarize themselves with these laws.

The Solar Rights Act
The Solar Rights Act significantly restricts the ability of cities and homeowner associations from regulating solar array installations. Under the Solar Rights Act, a city or county may not impede the installation of solar panel systems. The Solar Rights Act does not allow for restrictions such as additional permit requirements, location restrictions, or additional inspection requirements. Moreover, under the Solar Rights Act, a local agency should grant your solar permit request unless the system would adversely impact public health or safety.

A local agency will look to the following factors in determining whether your system is protected by the Solar Rights Act:

  • The system complies with all local health and safety standards;
  • Where solar energy is used to heat water, the system must receive certification from a national solar organization (i.e. Solar Rating Certification Corporation);
  • Electricity generating solar systems must meet all safety and reliability standards as provided by the National Electric Code as well as the Public Utilities Commission.

By meeting the requirements of your local agency and without any negative effect on public health and safety, you are effectively guaranteed the right to install the solar energy array of your choice.

The system complies with all local health and safety standards;

A major issue affecting the viability of your solar system is shading. The Solar Shade Control Act addresses this issue by restricting the planting and growing of trees which cast shade on solar panels. The Solar Shade Control Act prevents a property owner from both planting and maintaining any tree or brush that casts a shadow of more than ten percent (10%) on the solar absorption surface between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (i.e. peak production hours).

While the Solar Shade Control Act works to protect the productivity of solar panels, there is one major exception: the Solar Shade Control Act does not apply to the growth or planting of trees or bushes pursuant to any city or county ordinance. In other words, a city or county may enact an ordinance to exempt itself from the constraints of the Solar Shade Control Act. Most surprisingly, the exemption may even be adopted after a dispute has arisen between a solar customer and the local government entity. While this exemption may be surprising, it is based on environmental and aesthetic benefits living trees provide. The trees, like solar panels, effectively increase efficiency and help to reduce the production of greenhouse gases.

Conclusion
As we focus more of our efforts and resources on sustainable energy, more and more consumers will be affected by solar laws such as the Solar Rights Act and the Solar Shade Control Act. For legal guidance with regard to solar contracts or disputes regarding the design or installation of your solar system, contact Afsar Law Group, A.P.C.

Amir H. Afsar, Esq. is an attorney and founder of Afsar Law Group, A.P.C. which represents clients in business, real estate, construction, and estate planning matters throughout the Coachella Valley including Indio, La Quinta, Bermuda Dunes, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, Palm Springs, Banning, Joshua Tree, and other cities located within Riverside and San Bernardino County. Mr. Afsar can be reached at Afsar Law Group, A.P.C. at 760.345.3110.

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