Residents of North Richland Hills, TX are clashing with their city government this week over solar panel regulations that they claim make it harder to use clean energy.
Solar panels require little to no maintenance once installed, especially if batteries aren’t used, and a solar array can provide clean and quiet power for 25 to 40 years without producing any negative pollution.
But the regulations in North Richland Hills seem to be all about aesthetics. The new ordinance, passed in December, requires residents with panels on street-facing roof slopes to get a special use permit in addition to a standard installation permit, and ground-mounted systems will be subject to the same criteria as accessory buildings.
Only roof-mounted solar panels installed on a roof slope that doesn’t face the street are unaffected by the ordinance.
The changes may not sound significant, but a special use permit application costs $582 and only guarantees that panel installation will be considered, not approved. Neighbors have to be notified and a public hearing must be held to determine whether the panels will be approved. The process can take up to 45 days.
Solar panels need to be installed in a position where they’ll get optimal sunlight, which is often (but not always) a south-facing roof. This means that even if a person is interested in solar panels, they may be discouraged if their optimal roof faces the street.
“This is purely aesthetics,” local solar engineer Dan Lepinski told local affiliate CBSDFW. “[The SUP process] is enough to dissuade many people from putting them on their homes.” He added that very few people he’s surveyed mind the look of solar panels and that the city is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.
Mayor Oscar Trevino has argued that the ordinance is not in response to complaints, but is simply a way to handle the increasing number of solar panel requests in the area.
Mary Peters, Public Information Officer for the City of North Richland Hills, reiterated the Mayor’s stance, saying that the regulations were not intended to be anti-solar but would serve as a starting point and may be revised in the future.