Roadblock on the path to going green?

February 3, 2009 4:56:33 PM PST
There's a big push for Texans to go green. Area lawmakers want more people to do things to save energy, including installing solar panels on their homes. The problem is that a lot of homeowners associations don't allow it. Turning a home built in 1929 into a marvel of the 21st century is no easy task.

"I'm proud of the fact that I have collectors," said U of H architecture professor Charles Tapley, who is adding solar panels to his Montrose area house.

Tapley says no such job would be complete without solar panels from which electricity can be produced.

"We need to be saving energy, creating energy," he said.

Tapley didn't have to fight his homeowners' association to be able to put the solar collectors in, unlike many now locked in literal power struggles with HOAs which see the giant panels as blight in neighborhoods, and something which they fear can decrease property values.

Tapley says they only make the property more valuable. He would fight for them if he had to.

"I certainly would not just roll over and give up," he said.

Proposed legislation in Austin this year may make such a battle unnecessary. Senate bill 403, authored by Houston area state Senator Mike Jackson says in part that "...a property owners' association may not include or enforce a provision...that prohibits or restricts a property owner from installing a solar energy panel."

"I just think that people who own a house and who have the interested and wherewithal to invest in these solar panels should have the right to do that," said Senator Jackson.

Though none of the homeowners' associations we spoke to wanted to talk on camera, two did admit to us that they are either rethinking their policies when it comes to allowing solar panels or that unlike in years past they don't issue blanket denials when a homeowner requests permission to add the panels. Now they say it's on a case by case basis.

One environmental group estimates Texas could put solar panels on 500,000 rooftops over Texas homes in 10 years. That would create about 22,000 jobs and reduce as much pollution as taking 4.3 billion cars off the road for a year.

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