(TNS) -- More Texas homeowners will be allowed to install solar panels, under a new law set to go into effect Sept. 1.
Residential developments with more than 50 homes cannot ban or restrict homeowners from installing solar panels, even while new homes are still being built, according to the legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
“It means that more homeowners can access their basic right to free energy coming from the sun,” said Kaiba White, energy policy and outreach specialist for Public Citizen Texas.
The legislation addresses what some say is a loophole in existing law.
In 2011, Texas lawmakers restricted homeowner associations from banning solar energy systems. But homebuilders were still allowed to prohibit such systems in new developments that were still under construction.
Developers had felt that the exception was necessary to protect housing investments.
Solar energy advocates had cried foul, saying it could take years for housing projects to be completely built out.
Some residents who purchased their homes over a decade ago still haven’t been allowed to install solar systems because their developments are still being expanded, White said.
While the new law allows developments with 50 homes or fewer to ban or restrict solar panels during the construction phase, those smaller projects will be subject to the law once construction has been completed, White said.
Residents who live in communities with homeowner associations must still go through the HOA’s approval process, she noted.
The legislation was supported by the Texas Association of Home Builders.
It recognizes the builder/developer’s ability to maintain the character of the neighborhood while allowing homeowners to install solar panels if they abide by their HOA regulations, said Scott Norman, executive director of the association.
The new law was applauded by alternative energy advocates.
“This legislation is a positive step toward restoring a homeowner’s property rights so that they can choose to harness local, clean solar energy,” Larry Howe, one of the founders of Plano Solar Advocates, said in an email.
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