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Are there Restrictions on the Use of Solar Energy?

If you install solar panels on your property, the sunlight you need must pass through the airspace of your neighbors.  This is because the United States does not receive sunlight from directly overhead.  Ensuring you have access to sunlight for solar energy purposes means your neighbors will be restricted in the way they use their land.

How Can I Obtain and Maintain Access to My Solar Sources?

There are a number of ways you can gain and protect access to sunlight:

  • Easement: By entering into a written agreement with neighbors, you can prohibit your neighbor from doing anything that would impede your access to solar energy.  An attorney can advise you of local or state rules and regulations applying to solar access easements.
  • Covenant: Covenants are common in developed communities and usually bind residents to certain rules.  Often aesthetics are a concern addressed through covenants and may restrict construction of solar devices. 
  • Permit: States are beginning to establish procedures for private landowners who intend to install solar power to obtain a permit which would protect the permit holder from interference with solar access.

What Are Some Examples of Laws Regarding Easements for Use of Solar Energy?

Some examples of statutory provisions for solar access easements include:

  • Horizontal and vertical dimension descriptions
  • Time restrictions
  • Transferability of the easement from one landowner to the next
  • Enforcement and remedies should a dispute arise
  • Some areas also have statutes that prevent covenants restricting solar panels because the public is benefited by alternative energy sources

What if My Neighbors Complain about Reflected Glare from My Solar Panels?

If a neighbor complains of glare being created from solar panels on your property, they may be able to sue you for damages.  In order for your neighbor to win a claim against you, they would have to show they suffered serious interference from the reflected glare.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

An experienced real estate and property attorney can advise you of the laws and regulations in your area that restrict or promote access to solar energy.  A lawyer can also help you draft an agreement with a neighbor providing you access to sunlight. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 03-26-2018 09:05 PM PDT

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