Homeowners associations need to see the light on solar panels

Banning solar panels because they’re ugly is a textbook case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. But, as a story in Monday’s edition of The Aspen Times made clear, numerous homeowners associations from Aspen to western Garfield County are using aesthetics to stop residents from going solar.This is shortsighted and, in fact, illegal.Let’s deal first with the shortsighted part. We shouldn’t have to recite here all the reasons that energy conservation is important to this region and this nation. As we speak, oil and gas companies are punching thousands of holes in the western Colorado landscape to satisfy our hunger for energy. Emissions from coal-fired power plants, which provide the vast majority of Colorado’s electricity, foul the air and contribute to global warming. Our national dependence on foreign oil, which continues to corrupt our foreign policy and embroil our military in overseas adventures, is something that any thinking citizen should want to reduce or curtail.So when a Western Slope homeowner decides to spend thousands of dollars to generate his own power from a renewable and abundant resource – the golden disk in the Colorado state flag stands for abundant sunshine, after all – why would anyone get in his way?The Colorado Legislature already weighed in on this issue – in 1979. Recognizing even then that solar panels are an unattractive but important technology, legislators decided that homeowners associations could require aesthetic improvements that were reasonable and minimal in cost. In other words, associations may require homeowners to hide or somehow spruce up solar panels, but such provisions may not significantly increase the cost of the panels.Of course, solar panels are a large and easy target for the local “taste police.” And how many homeowners are going to take their own association to court? The panels themselves are expensive, without hiring a lawyer to fight for your right to install them.The only way out of this bind is for the associations to snap out of their stupor and see the bigger picture.


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