Homeowners Solar Rights on CBS 2 tonight at 5:00 pm

02 Jun 2010 4:28 PM | Michelle Hickey

Watch the story

A Northbrook couple says their neighbors were more concerned with green lawns than a "green" lifestyle. They were among those statewide who saw a homeowners association blocking their plans for the installation of solar panels on their own home. But, as CBS 2's Vince Gerasole reports, those roadblocks seem to be melting away in the sun. 


Solar energy panels seemed like a bright idea for the Goldmans and their sunbathed Northbrook home. 

"We have a southern exposure, which is the exposure you want to put up solar panels," said Phyllis Goldman, as she looks up at the sun shining over her two story roof. "The trees we have don't block it." 



Phyllis and her husband Eugene are an environmentally conscious couple who have been recycling since the '70s. Four years ago, they drew up plans for a rooftop installation of several solar panels. 

"They don't add to the beauty of the house, but that's not the point of it," said Eugene. 

But the Goldmans live in a manicured, almost picture-perfect, private community where they knew outward appearances were subject to the approval of a homeowners association; an association that turned them down, in part over aesthetics. 



"The last bastion of fascism is homeowners associations," said Phyllis. 

The decision had the green living couple seeing red. "If you don't want to do it yourself, that's your business, but to prevent somebody else from doing something that would be good for the environment, it's not good," said Phyllis. 



Brandon Leavitt owns Solar Service, a company that specializes in solar energy. 

"Even on a cloudy day, we're generating electricity right now," said Leavitt, as we looked at a rooftop display of black solar panels that sit atop the roof of his business in Niles. 

He says for decades associations throughout Chicago have blocked solar panel installations. That's in spite of current federal programs offering considerable financial incentives for their purchase, and the fact that much of what's sold today arguably resembles a standard skylight. 



"We think it's a freedom to choose," said Leavitt. "It's a freedom to choose to harvest the energy falling on your property," said Leavitt. 



It's a choice now seeing the light of day thanks to Illinois' Homeowners' Solar Rights Act. It requires homeowners associations to adopt acceptable design standards for solar systems in buildings up to three stories tall. 

"Somebody just can't say, 'I don't like the way it looks, you can't do it,'" said Leavitt. 



Re-energized, the Goldmans are now renewing their plans to power their home with the sun. 

"They should be grateful we didn't want to put up a windmill in our backyard," said Phyllis. 

The Homeowners' Solar Rights Act was approved by both Houses, and is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature.

(© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)


 

Webinar Q&A

Q: There is a 2% limit on rate increases. Are you sure this is not a problem? The rate increase is in reference to the total procurement, so we do not anticipate it being an issue.


Q: I am a homeowner. Your invitation stated you may have some new information concerning Gov. Rauner's budget. That's what I'm particularly interested in. The proposed budget for 2015/2016, at this time has eliminated rebates and grants. ISEA’s position is that we will continue to advocate for the continuation of this program. There is also a legislative bill that has proposed an extension to this program through 2020 which we support and will continue to track.


Q: Can you provide an REC typical value for an average sized home with this proposed declining block program? I have a hard time explaining the value of RECs. Since Illinois has not had a REC price in the past, it’s difficult to estimate what the initial market value may be. The supplemental procurement will go a long way in establishing Illinois REC market prices. In the meantime, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) will continue to research other markets to make the best decisions for the Illinois market. The goal, of course, is to install solar, and the purpose of the REC is to incentivize solar purchases and ensure pricing makes economic sense. As a reminder, there’s still a bit of the process left before we see what price RECs will have in Illinois. Once the legislation has been passed, and the REC price is published, we’ll update as needed.


Q: What recs are available for people who installed solar systems in 2014? If the system was energized prior to January 21, 2015, you qualify for the regular procurement event in September 2015.


Q: Does Exelon nuclear energy qualify as renewable energy with the 35% by 2030? It does not. Renewable energy is defined within the statute and includes wind, solar, and biofuels. More information can be found at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=88&GA=99&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=2607&GAID=13&LegID=88134&SpecSess=&Session=

It is important to note that the Clean Jobs Bill, not to be confused with other energy bills, is the only bill that focuses on renewable energy while producing 32000 jobs per year.


Q: Will clean energy that has already been produced from existing systems be considered for auction? No. The RECs will only be from the contract date of the accepted bid moving forward.


Q: If I plan to install more solar panels in 2015, are IL rebates still available, or is it dependent on Governor Rauner's budget proposal? The program for the 2014/2015 fiscal year is closed. So any future rebate availability will depend on the budget proposal. However, consider the procurement events of 2015/2016 as potential funding sources.  This scenario strongly highlights why we need to pass the Clean Jobs Bill (HB2607/SB1485) as it will provide a way to raise the status of renewable energy to equal that of all other forms of energy. Thus, any perceived dependence on rebates and grants will be removed.


Q: Evidently the 2014/20­15 rebates were frozen. Is that still the case? At this time, rebate decision letters have gone out, clarifying which will be paid and informing the owners that no further extensions will be granted.


Q: When will the specific process of solar customers contracting to be paid for future SRECs in place of the Illinois DCEO Rebate program be rolled out?­ The first supplemental procurement will be June 18, 2015. Aggregators are already available. We have a list of preferred companies here http://www.illinoissolar.org/SRECTrade-FAQ


Q: Once the REC schedule is defined, can you post some investment payback time scenarios on the ISEA blog, including the declining block ­ to let people know what is a realistic investment outlook?

We will try, however, we don’t anticipate seeing any information on this until early to mid 2016.



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