Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Energy Star Homebuilders Block Installation of Solar PV in Plano Neighborhood

Homebuilders Elect to Limit Consumer Choice

This blog posting is intended for homeowners of the Trails of Glenwood neighborhood in Plano and similar homeowners elsewhere who might be in similar situations.  Readers of this blog posting are encouraged to forward it to others, especially if you know someone living in, or associated with this neighborhood.

More and more homeowners all across Plano are exercising consumer choice by choosing to make investments in their homes to add solar electric PV systems. These systems generate local electricity to meet at least some or most of their electricity needs.  But in a beautiful area of northeast Plano, homeowners are being told they don’t have the choice.

Legislation was passed in 2011 that prevents HOAs in Texas from blocking homeowners from installing solar panels on their homes.  However, there is one “loophole” in the legislation that was reportedly added at the last minute by the Texas Homebuilders Association. This loophole allows developers (builders) to withhold permission to install solar panels if the neighborhood is still in “development”.  Unfortunately for homeowners and prospective homeowners in the Trails of Glenwood neighborhood in Plano, their HOA (currently represented by only the homebuilders) is using this clause to prevent homeowners the choice of generating some of their electricity with solar panels.

It seems a bit ironic that as the Trails of Glenwood neighborhood is adding additional loads to the electric grid and increasing water requirements on a very strained and fragile water system, that these “Energy Star” homebuilders are blocking new homeowners from making their own investments to install solar electric systems. Systems that take advantage of local clean energy and that require no water for electricity generation.

Plano Solar Advocates has written letters to the homebuilders and HOA management company requesting that they change their policy and to allow homeowners this electricity consumer choice option.  To date, only one response has been received.   See the following excerpt:

… the concern is, by allowing the installation of unsightly solar panels and equipment there would be a negative impact on the aesthetic quality of the entire community.  So while solar panels would be a positive with regard to energy savings of the individual homeowner, it could negatively impact the rest of the property owners in Trails of Glenwood via diminished property values….

Now a few points here from the perspective of Plano Solar Advocates:
1.      The term “unsightly” for solar panels seems quite subjective.  We agree that solar panels are still relatively new, and it may take time for “some” people to get used to seeing them.  But by driving through the Trails of Glenwood neighborhood, you can see some things that others might think or more “unsightly” than solar panels - like high voltage transmission lines visible from every home in the neighborhood and satellite dishes installed on many roofs that are visible from the street.
2.      Trails of Glenwood residents should be becoming more familiar with solar panels because the Plano Fire Station that protects them just outside their neighborhood has solar panels on its roof.  
3.      Regarding “diminished property values” - all of the studies and articles that we have found indicate that adding local generation to homes only increases property values, not decrease.  Even a recent article in the online Builder magazine titled “Eight Reasons Your Buyers Should Opt for Solar Power" is highlighting why solar is becoming more mainstream and definitely not decreasing property values.
o    Also, according to a recent article by the American Solar Energy Society, there are now more than 470,000 solar PV installations across the US, with 155,000 of those being installed in 2013.  So PV intallations may still be new to some people, but acceptance is growing rapidly!
4.      Toyota, a company very focused on sustainability, recently announced that it is moving its North American headquarters to Plano (relocating from California).  To attract relocated employees, it seems that area homebuilders would be embracing rooftop solar technology which is widespread in California, rather than blocking it.

So in closing, we propose the following steps & recommendations for homeowners and potential homeowners of the Trails of Glenwood. Contact the HOA and homebuilders and let your voice be heard.
1.      Tell the HOA that it should be your choice not their choice whether you choose to install solar panels. Tell them to change their “development period” policy and to allow installations of solar panels.
2.      Ask the HOA and builder for clarification as to where and how it was disclosed to you before you purchased the property that you would not be allowed to install solar panels during the “development” period.
3.      If they do not agree to change their policy regarding installation of solar panels, here are some additional ideas:
o    Ask them for a specific date for when the “development” period will end and to publish this date to existing homeowners and to all new prospective homeowners.
o    For homeowners who are interested in investing and installing solar PV systems and are denied by the HOA, require the HOA to waive the $600 annual dues until the “development” period is over.  This would at least partially offset the lost electricity and potential equipment savings denied the homeowner.

If you have any additional ideas, questions or comments, we would like to hear from you.  Please use our “contact us” form on our webpage to let us know.

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocates (LH)

UPDATE5 August 31, 2014 - Dallas Morning News “Sounding Off” posed question - Should developers be able to restrict solar-energy devices while housing developments are still under construction? Results as of 9/2/14 - Change the law!
Out of 118 total responses: 106 Against developer restriction, 12 either For, For it with Conditions, or Neutral.
See embedded links to Dallas Morning News “Sounding Off” area responses with response totals for each area in parentheses - Plano (17/4), Allen (2/0), Best Southwest area (14/0), Frisco (3/0), Lewisville-Flower Mound (6/0), McKinney (13/0), Northwest Dallas County (16/2), Richardson-Lake Highlands (17/1), Rockwall-Rowlett (8/1), East Dallas (10/2)

UPDATE4 August 20, 2014 - See CBS Channel 11 video and article - Homeowners Stalled From Installing Solar Power
UPDATE3 August 20, 2014 - See Dallas Observer article - Plano Developers Won't Let Homeowners Install Solar Panels Because They're Just So Ugly
UPDATE2 August 19, 2014 - See Dallas Morning News Editorial - The stupidity of stopping solar power in Plano
UPDATE August 17, 2014 - See Dallas Morning News article - Texas law lets developers ban solar panelswhile subdivisions are growing

No comments:

Post a Comment