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Rooftop Solar? This Texas Town Says 'Not in My Backyard'

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Data & Technology
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NIMBY (not in my backyard) is alive and well in a Fort Worth, Texas suburb -- and this time with a solar twist.

Back in December, the North Richland Hills town council passed an ordinance requiring homeowners whose roofs face the street to get permission to install rooftop solar power systems. The ordinance also states that solar panels can’t extend “beyond roof edges.” The town council’s reason for the ordinance, according to its website, is to “balance benefits to [the] homeowner with any potential impacts to the surrounding property owners.” That means some homeowners in North Richland Hills face an obstacle to installing rooftop solar, along with a special use permit fee that the Dallas Morning News reports could cost up to $600.

After receiving a petition from citizens, on Jan. 26 the town council agreed to “revisit” the ordinance on solar panels. The council will survey residents to decide what changes citizens want to the ordinance, and any amendments to it will go through a public hearing process. The special use permit fee will be waived while the ordinance is being reviewed.

North Richland Hills is not the only place where NIMBY sentiments have popped up relating to solar power. The Associated Press reports that there is opposition to a proposed $25 million solar power plant on the outskirts of the largest city in South Dakota. Although Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County planners approved a permit for the solar plant, some neighbors said they will appeal it because they are concerned about its appearance. Construction is slated to begin in 2016, and the plant is expected to be operational by the end of that year.

Renewable Energy World mentions a couple in West St. Louis County, Missouri who spent years fighting their local zoning board to be able to install solar panels on the roof of their Victorian house. Jim and Frances Babb’s homeowners association gave them approval. But when they filed for a permit the city tried to pass an ordinance that would ban solar panels on the front or sides of the roof. The ordinance the town passed ended up allowing rooftop panels, and the Babbs received approval. However, the aldermen voted 6-0 to deny the couple.

Apparently, neighbors had complained about how the panels would look. Eventually, the Babbs were able to have the system installed, but they were still fighting the city council, which wanted them to apply for a new permit and have their system inspected, as of spring 2014.

Solar panels are not the only form of renewable energy to face opposition. More than 10 years ago, plans to build the first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, in the U.S. were announced. Cape Wind would consist of 130 wind turbines off Cape Cod. Unfortunately, the project has met with opposition from neighbors. Last month, NPR reported that two of the offshore wind farm’s biggest customers abandoned contracts to purchase power from the wind farm.

Image credit: starfive

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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