Green Local Deal

Recently the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee had a hearing for LB 621, introduced by Omaha Senator Rick Kolowski.

LB 621 is a proposed solar access law which would prohibit home owners associations (HOAs) from banning solar projects in the neighborhoods or developments they control.

It’s worth noting that it adds language to the relevant statutes (66-901 to 66-914) emphasizing the “utmost importance” of encouraging not just wind and solar energy but their “distributed generation” which appears to be the first time that phrase would be mentioned in state law. For those of us who are interested not only in renewable energy but in energy democracy, that is a positive step.

The bill would amend 66-913 to give cities and counties some leeway in granting variances or waivers to local zoning and land use ordinances to encourage solar installation. It introduces the phrase “the right to direct sunlight “ in relation to allowing regulation of shading by neighboring property owners including the issuance of “solar access permits” for solar owners.

The heart of the bill prohibits covenants by HOAs from outright banning PV installations and prohibits them from assessing fees for solar installations (which might be used as an end run around the ban if the fees are so high they make it cost prohibitive.) The bill does not address the question of whether or to what extent HOAs can place restrictions on solar installations without banning them outright, such as in historic districts or by requiring placement away from the street side of a house. It does however give the solar owner/proposer standing to bring civil action if they feel the HOA is being unfair or misinterpreting the intent of the law.

Currently 25 states have some type of solar access law and federal laws have been proposed but not passed.

How Sen. Kolowski’s bill would compare to other state laws I’m not able to answer at this point but the language certainly seems encouraging.

If you have further information to share on this subject, email me and I’ll include it in future updates.