Associations Need to Adopt a Solar and Wind Energy Policy

Article excerpt

Solar panels and wind turbines installed by townhouse and condominium owners could be commonplace in the near future.Green, environmentally friendly policies, and alternative energy sources, are generally "hot" topics these days, and that is equally true in homeowner associations.

The law in Illinois now requires condominium, homeowners and common interest community associations to formulate policies to address green initiatives proposed by unit owners.

Formerly known as the Homeowners' Solar Rights Act, the Homeowners' Energy Policy Statement Act has been revised, effective Jan. 1.The Energy Act requires associations to adopt an energy policy statement.The energy policy statement must address the location, design and architectural requirements of solar energy systems, like solar panels.

The energy policy statement must also describe whether a wind energy collection system (wind turbine), rain water collection system, or composting system is allowed, and if so, the location, design and architectural requirements of those systems.

Most associations are governed by a declaration of covenants that prohibit an owner from installing anything on the exterior of the building or in common areas without the approval of the board.That restriction, and the board's power to approve additions to the exterior of the buildings, is eroded when an owner desires to install a solar energy system, like solar panels.The Energy Act provides that no deed restriction, covenant or similar binding agreement can prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting, a solar energy system from being installed on a building covered by the deed restriction, covenant or binding agreement.

This would seem to raise a constitutional impairment of contract issue, but we will have to wait for a court decision for a definitive answer.

The practical impact of the Energy Act is that the board of the association cannot deny a property owner in an association permission to install a solar energy system.However, the association can determine the specific location where solar panels may be installed on the roof, within an orientation to the south or within 45-degrees east or west of due south.However, this determination cannot impair the effective operation of the solar energy system. …