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Bill says no to banning rooftop solar panels

Proposed protections for those who want to install solar energy systems on their roofs advanced out of the House Energy Committee on Monday. 

Sponsored by Rep. Will Morgan (DFL-Burnsville), HF2918 would prohibit homeowner’s associations from barring the owners of townhomes from installing solar panels on their rooftops. The bill follows legislation signed into law in 2013 setting the state’s first solar energy standard and providing incentives to home and business owners who install solar energy systems.

Rep. Will Morgan answers a question during testimony on his bill, HF2918, which would prohibit restrictions on residential soar energy systems. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The idea behind the bill, Morgan said, is if a homeowner owns the roof and is responsible for maintenance and repairs, "those homeowners ought to have some authority over what goes on that roof."

He likened the proposal to the protected status in state law allowing townhome owners to install items like satellite television dishes and flagpoles. 

The bill will "provide some opportunities for townhome owners to install some solar if they like," Morgan said. 

Homeowner’s associations aren't without protections under the proposed legislation. Associations would be able to set certain conditions, like requiring the system be installed by a licensed contractor; limit the height of the system; and require the system owner reimburse the private entity for any damages resulting from the installation or use of the solar panels.

HF2918 "gives more benefit to the [homeowner’s association] side than is typical," said Ross Abbey, a policy associate with Fresh Energy, a green energy policy group in support of the bill. 

The bill was re-referred to the House Civil Law Committee. A companion, SF2555, sponsored by Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Solar production tax

Also advanced by the committee is HF2911, sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls), proposed legislation that would impose a solar energy production tax on larger solar energy systems, update the state tax code’s treatment of solar energy and clean up outdated language in state law. 

Modeled after the state’s existing wind energy production tax, the bill proposes a $1.20 per megawatt-hour tax on solar electric generation systems, but would exempt systems with a capacity of one megawatt or less. Tax revenue generated would be distributed to local counties and cities where the larger systems are located.

HF2911 was re-referred to the House Taxes Committee. A companion, SF2482, sponsored by Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City), awaits action by the Senate Taxes Committee.

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