Alternative energy bill advances in Nevada Legislature |

Alternative energy bill advances in Nevada Legislature

Associated Press Writer

A Senate panel voted Tuesday for an alternative energy bill that would ensure a homeowners’ association can’t restrict a homeowner’s right to install and use solar energy systems.

Sen. Mike Schneider, chairman of the Senate Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee and author of SB114, said the bill strengthens existing laws that already prohibit homeowners’ associations from interfering with installation of solar energy systems.

Schneider, D-Las Vegas, added that a homeowners’ association or a local government can impose restrictions that don’t prohibit solar energy systems, “but make them so much more costly and so much less efficient that the restrictions would effectively act as a prohibition.”

In remarks after the committee endorsed SB114, Schneider made the bill’s intent clear.

“The state has taken a position that (solar energy systems) must be allowed in every community and every homeowner association. And it’s not that they may be allowed, they must be allowed,” Schneider said.

Under the bill now moving to the full Senate, the director of the state Office of Energy would have final say whether a restriction imposed by a homeowner association violates the rights of a homeowner to use or install a solar energy system.

“We chose the energy office because we want an objective decision if there is any dispute,” Schneider said.

The proposed bill also deems any restrictions that reduce efficiency of solar energy systems by more than 10 percent to be unreasonable. It also specifies that the use of black solar panels may not be prohibited by homeowner associations because black-colored panels collect solar energy most efficiently.

Charles Benjamin of the Nevada office of Western Resource Advocates, an environmental advocacy group, supported the bill and said it benefits individuals.

“People want to have some control over their own energy destiny at a time when everybody realizes that energy of all sorts is going up in price,” Benjamin told lawmakers.

An amendment to the bill removed language dealing with wind energy systems.

A Nevada representative of the Community Associations Institute, which represents homeowner organizations, declined to comment on the bill pending a review of the amended bill.