Solar panels can save homeowners money, but some HOA bar installations. Lawmakers are trying to change that. – The news of the pink report
It was with great enthusiasm that Nancy Simmet submitted a request for the installation of solar panels to her homeowners association (HOA) in the fall of 2020. Driven by the desire to use renewable energies and to benefit from the incentives government and businesses to switch to solar, and out of boredom during the pandemic, Simmet reached out to a Minnesota-based solar company, I-solar, to develop a layout for his detached townhouse. But like many residents across the state and country, Simmet’s desire met with a headache with his homeowners association. Within 24 hours, Simmet’s request was rejected by his HOA.
About a quarter of the state’s population live in HOA communities, with 37% of state owners being HOAs, leaving a large portion of state residents dependent on their HOA’s policies to use energy. renewable. But some state lawmakers are hoping to give homeowners more autonomy in their decision to switch to solar power.
A bipartisan bill drafted by Rep. Ami Wazlawik, DFL-White Bear Township, and Senator Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, would restrict the power of HOAs to deny homeowners the ability to install solar panels and give associations owners of structural guidelines for solar installation requests. After weeks of negotiations, the HOA Community Actions Institute lobbying and interest group agreed to maintain a neutral stance on the bill. But while the bill passed the House as part of the Omnibus Energy Budget Bill, it was not passed by the Senate. Still, the bill’s authors plan to resubmit the bill next year.
Wazlawik says that while the individual decisions to opt for solar power may seem minor, they are actually contributing to a larger effort for Minnesota residents and businesses to engage in renewable energy.
“It’s kind of a small piece of the larger set of things we’ve worked on as lawmakers in the House, on solar power and renewables,” Wazlawik said. “So I think even though it’s a smaller piece of the puzzle, it’s an important piece in trying to move in a new direction using renewable energy.”
Rachel Aplikowski, director of communications and press secretary for the Senate Republican Caucus, said the bill was introduced in the Senate after the committee’s deadline expired, but believes there is a chance that the bill be heard next year.
Financial incentives and environmental values
Minnesota is often included in lists of the nation’s top states to adopt solar power. The state offers incentives that include a sales tax exemption and solar bill credits to return energy to solar grids through net metering.
It was these incentives along with the desire to use environmentally friendly energy sources that prompted Simmet to testify before the House’s finance and climate and energy policy committee in March.
“I believe we should have clean, renewable energy, whether it’s wind or whatever,” Simmet said. “I just feel like I have to do my part.”
Jonathan Edmonson, another owner who testified before the committee, said that by taking carbon offsetting into account, he calculated how much he would save over the life of a solar panel installation and decided he wanted install the panels. “It seemed to me that I could easily save over $ 50,000 over the life of the system. “
Edmonson said that while his HOA did not reject his request, he did not have policies in place to take solar panels into account. Months after submitting an installation approval request, it is still waiting for a final response. He was told that the aesthetics of the panels are the main factor in deciding to withhold an answer.
Bobby King, the Minnesota state director of Solar United Neighbors, a nonprofit that helps people switch to solar power, says HOAs often turn down installation requests just to maintain the consistency and that he frequently hears from hopeful consumers that their application is denied without further consideration.
The law would allow restrictions but not denial
“A lot of HOAs in Minnesota ban solar power outright or make it very difficult to use solar power, and other states have passed laws that give homeowners the right to opt for solar power,” King said. “So this law would say that HOA homeowners have the right to switch to solar power and the HOA can impose some restrictions, but they can’t just say no, you can’t use solar power. “
King says solar gives families energy independence and financial security and is an important factor for lawmakers to consider.
Peter Teigland, who helped draft the bill as a political associate of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA), a 501 (c) (6) trade organization that represents more than 100 solar companies across the State said many HOAs have been formed. before the popularization of solar energy and often do not know how to answer installation questions.
“I think a big part of the problem with HOAs was their statements and regulations, many of which were written some time ago, never envisioned solar panels as an architectural addition or accessory to a home. And so when that happens, members of the board of directors or the management company associated with HOAs just don’t know exactly what to do and don’t allow it to happen.
Teigland believes the bill will help HOAs navigate Minnesota’s growing solar market. In one interview with the Star TribuneDavid Shaffer, executive director of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association, predicted that building large-scale solar and community facilities this year would be double the amount completed in 2019 or 2020. Renewable energy sources currently account for nearly a quarter of the state’s electricity production, with solar power accounting for 3 percent.
Representative Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, chairman of the Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee, believes a Senate hearing could change the bill’s fate next year.
“I think, at least for me, that the hearing was very impactful because the testimony was really convincing that these people wanted to do what so many other Minnesota owners want to do, which is to put pressure on it. solar energy on their roof. And they were prevented from doing so, even though they were often unaware that it might even be a possibility when they went to buy their house in an HOA.