Model Solar Energy Access Legislation

July 22, 2010 Author: Erik Swenson

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At the request of the American Bar Association Environment, Energy and Resources Section’s Renewable Energy Resources Committee, over the course of the summer of 2008, the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. organized several attorneys, 11 summer associates and members of the firm’s permanent staff to (1) review existing solar access laws, both statutory and common law, across the United States and several other English speaking countries, and (2) develop model legislation for potential use by states wishing to enhance access to solar energy for useful purposes.

The scope of our work was focused on four aspects of solar access rights: (1) basic rights to "Skyspace" i.e., the lines of sight between a solar energy collector and the portions of the sky occupied by the sun for a portion of each day; (2) the ability of owners of adjacent parcels of land to enter into durable agreements that will ensure future access to insolation, beyond any automatic protection of Skyspace provided by law; (3) the role of local governments; and (4) the ability of homeowners associations ("HOAs") to proscribe the installation of solar energy devices.