Solar Power and HOA's

I'm collecting here sites involving disputes over residents in covenant-protected communities who want to mount solar power on their roofs.  They typically run into a big fat "no" from their homeowner association's (HOA's) Architectural Control Committee.  Lawsuits can erupt.

So, click here for one such dispute.

And here for another, as reported about herehereherehere and here, and commented on here.

Click here and  here for a more general discussion on the topic.

Click here for Texas regulation banning HOA's from banning solar power on HOA-governed homes.

Here's some misguided proposed Georgia legislation aimed at overriding HOA covenants in favor of solar power on individual homeowner roofs.  It's misguided because, at the HOA level, a neighborhood exercises its own control over its look, character and feel.  Property values rise and fall based on that.  Many solar arrays (including mine) are butt-ugly, and so a neighborhood ought to be able to vote up or down its aesthetic value (trade looks for solar energy). This legislation basically lets another group of people -- people from the outside (i.e., the Legislature) -- make that call.  That centralization of political power ironically contradicts the decentralization of electric power that solar greenies advocate.

Is the proposed Georgia legislation more democratic? No. It's anti-democratic and ham-fisted in its intent.  It's a one-size-fits all rule, even thought the politicians know that HOA-based subdivisions are all different. The proposal failed in the 2012 General Assembly. Here's an lobbyist's take on it ("Rep. Karla Drenner has proposed legislation that would prohibit homeowner’s associations from infringing on the private property rights of a homeowner to install solar PV or hot water panels.").

And all of that lobbyist's arguments are demonstrably flawed if not misleading by omission.  

Example: Re-read that phrase "infringing on the private property rights of a homeowner."  Part of a homeowner's property value, and right, is bound up in increased value flowing from a covenant-controlled neighborhood, where "Bob" doesn't get to park his boat or busted car on the front lawn.  Ditto for super-uglifying his roof and thus pulling his adjacent neighbors' home values down (you would not want me to build my 10KW Solar PV country home  next to yours in a standard suburban neighborhood, right?).  The legislation ignores that right.  In fact, it tramples it.  It does not even engage in any interest-balancing.

Another Example: 

Lower prices and cleaner air. This bill is also about supply and demand. If more homeowners are allowed to install solar, there will be more supply. More supply means two things to real Georgians: It means that at 2pm on a hot august afternoon when my Air Conditioner is cranking, my utility company is not going to have to fire up their cancer-causing oil burners to meet peak energy demand and we will have less code orange smog alerts.  It also means that with more supply, the price goes down.

So, the lobbyist reasons that people in Atlanta should (via the legislation they would pass) override local control because it's always good to increase solar power -- because more solar power will reduce the number of brown-power plants ("their cancer-causing oil burners" -- actually, Georgia uses only coal, not oil, to generate electricity).

My question:  Got any proof that more solar will reduce "brown power" energy sourcing?  Because if that proof exists then sure, let's clear all legal barriers and cover every last sun-drenched rooftop, aesthetics be damned, local tastes and democratic decision-making, too.  Hell, less poison in the environment and more prosperity (sun-supplied electricity constitutes net new wealth to those who harness it) is a worthwhile trade-off for me, and I'm not a big aesthetics fan anyway, let's kick those "kwazy HOA's" out of the way (hence, let's centralize decentralized democratic decision-making in the hands of those "smarter, wiser" people free-lunched by lobbyists in Atlanta, along with their bureaucrats).

But there is no proof.  One of the reasons is the variability of solar power.  And no one's asking how much it costs for utilities to reconfigure their grids to accommodate that power -- they claim it costs too much so they don't want solar-generated electricity, and thus the greenies got legislation passed forcing them to buy it from individuals.  So thwarting local control (HOA's) in the name of producing more solar-based electricity that no one really wants is not the soundest political approach to take.  Ditto for lobbing billions in subsidies at a solar power industry now known for bubble-bust cycles and political corruption (Solyndra), as more fully discussed here.

Relatedly, here's my letter to my legislative representative on a related point.  It was discussing other Georgia legislation known as SB 401, pushed by another solar advocate (Dr. Sydney Smith) to enable fellows like him to install Solar PV systems and lease them others -- called a "PPA" mechanism -- Smith himself has erected a large solar farm near mine, and many PPA's are designed to soak up "tax equity," meaning exploit tax credits (hence, another form of subsidization for Solar, which many are against):

Dear Rep. Carter:

Please read my questions in the Comments section here:  For your convenience, I have reproduced and further refined my questions here:
I own and operate a 10KW grid-tied, solar PV array in Central Georgia.  I've written about it here: I got it up for $35,000, with $21,000 of it subsidized by my neighbors (tax credits).  The questions I have derive from both its operation and SB 401's intent: (1) If two million Georgians did what I did, how many fewer base-load plants (coal, nukes, and other "brown power" forms) and peak-load plants would be built?  

(2) If the answer is “none,” or hardly any, then what is it our governments hope to achieve by spending our tax dollars subsidizing solar arrays like mine?  

(3) The biggest argument "brown power" has against renewable (green power) energy is that it’s too variable, and so, even if solar's generation cost falls to that of coal and nukes (“grid parity”), there’s no cost-feasible electricity storage now available to collect the “spikey” jolts of electricity that solar feeds into the grid, then transmit it into the smooth flow that we all need to run our alarm clocks, TVs, etc. 

Too, the utilities further argue, it would take astronomical grid-reconfiguration costs to handle such variability in an economically useful way.  Is that all B.S.?  I’d like to see a clear, evidentially supported, rebuttal to that argument.  I haven’t, except for citation to “vaporware” and theoretical or subsidy-propped (hence, "market-artificialized") hybrid solar/gas installations.  

Dr. Sydney Smith is a well-meaning man, but his LLC model relies upon the same brown power grid as mine, and thus what he’s selling can’t function, much less be of any value to his café client, without it.  Ditto for his “solar farm” in Pembroke, Georgia.  The legislation he backs is aimed at simply producing more solar power generators via third-party money flowing in from the investment channel (Power-Purchase Leasing Agreements (PPAs)) that he seeks to create.  He thus wants to create more systems like mine, preferably in the millions as people like me fill up their roofs and farm fields with solar panels.  

But he’s not focusing on the variability issue.  Again, how much will it cost for existing grids to usefully (i.e., correspondingly reduce brown-power generation) accept solar-generated (hence, highly variable) electricity?  That is the elephant in his room.  And it is no argument to claim that the utilities already buy solar power from private property owners like me, so why object to PPA-based solar generation.  Why?  Because the utilities don’t even want to buy my power -- they are forced to by law (a point greenies like to ignore).  I seek to join Dr. Smith in his otherwise noble efforts, but I want to see the “variability” dragon slain first.  More on variability here.

Here's similar failed legislation in Virginia.