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Solar Energy and Homeowners' Associations: How to Navigate the Hurdles to Reap the Benefits

Energy Environmental

Are you part of a homeowners’ association (HOA) and considering the adoption of clean, renewable energy? Going solar as an HOA or as a homeowner within an HOA may be the right choice for you. As the world increasingly prioritizes sustainable energy solutions, HOAs are also looking to harness the power of the sun.

Let’s start by taking a look at the benefits:

1. Cost Savings: Solar panels can significantly reduce electricity bills for homeowners. By harnessing the sun’s energy, residents can enjoy ongoing savings on energy costs while contributing to a more sustainable future.

2. Environmental Stewardship: Solar energy is clean and renewable, making it an eco-friendly choice. HOAs can reduce carbon emissions and decrease dependence on fossil fuels on the community level, contributing to minimizing the HOAs carbon footprint.

3. Enhanced Property Values: Solar panels can enhance property values within the community. Homes with solar installations tend to be more attractive to buyers and can command higher resale prices.

4. Tax Incentives: Homeowners and the HOA may be eligible for federal and state tax incentives, rebates, or credits for installing solar panels, which reduces the overall cost of the project. The NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) provides further information on these programs here:

5. Community Pride: Going solar can foster a sense of community pride. Residents unite in support of environmentally responsible initiatives, improving overall quality of life in the neighborhood.

With these benefits come some hurdles that require attention:

1. Initial Costs: Solar panel installation can be expensive upfront, and HOAs may need to secure outside funding or impose special assessments on homeowners to cover the bulk of the cost. NYSERDA provides incentive and financing information on their website, located here:

2. Aesthetics: Some residents may find solar panels unattractive, or believe they detract from the community’s visual appeal.

3. Maintenance: Solar panels require the HOA to be aware of maintenance needs, including cleaning, monitoring, and repairing, which constitute additional costs, as well.

4. Regulatory Challenges: HOAs may face regulatory hurdles, such as zoning restrictions, when attempting to transition to and install solar panels. If state and local regulations are ignored, it can lead to time-consuming and potentially expensive remedial measures.

If you or your HOA decide to move forward with solar installations, being on top of the regulatory hurdles is critical to seeing the project through. Consulting with NYSERDA and an attorney will ensure you and/or your HOA are on the path to successfully navigating the following:

1. Zoning and Land Use Regulations: Local zoning laws may dictate where solar panels can be placed on a property, and whether there are any size or setback requirements. HOAs may need to apply for zoning permits to ensure compliance with local regulations.

2. Historic Districts and Aesthetic Guidelines: If the HOA community is located within a historic district or has strict aesthetic guidelines, solar panel installations may face additional scrutiny. There might be restrictions on the appearance and placement of solar panels to maintain the historical or visual integrity of the neighborhood.

3. Building Codes and Permits: Solar installations typically require building permits and must adhere to building codes. These codes ensure the safety and structural integrity of the installation. HOAs must coordinate with local building authorities to obtain the necessary permits and inspections.

4. Utility Interconnection Rules: Connecting the solar installation to the utility grid requires compliance with utility company interconnection rules and regulations. This may involve inspections, metering requirements, and adherence to safety standards.

5. Environmental Impact Assessments: Depending on the size and location of the solar installation, environmental impact assessments may be necessary. These assessments evaluate potential impacts on wildlife, vegetation, and water resources. Compliance with environmental regulations may be required.

6. Property Easements and Covenants: Some HOA communities have property easements or covenants that restrict what can be done on certain parts of a property. These restrictions can affect the placement and installation of solar panels.

7. Net Metering and Utility Regulations: Net metering policies, which govern how homeowners receive credit for excess solar energy sent back to the grid, vary by location. HOAs need to understand and navigate these policies to ensure fair compensation for solar energy production.

8. HOA Bylaws and Architectural Guidelines: Many HOAs have rules and architectural guidelines that govern the appearance of homes and properties within the community. Solar panel installations may need to comply with these guidelines, which could include restrictions on panel placement or design.

Navigating these regulatory hurdles can be complex, time-consuming, and costly. HOAs that choose to work with legal counsel, solar installation experts, and local government officials best position themselves to ensure compliance with all local and state regulations while securing the necessary permits and approvals. Early and open communication with homeowners within the community is also essential to gain support for the project and address any concerns or objections related to regulatory compliance and upholding the values of the HOA.


The Zoghlin Group PLLC has experience representing individuals, municipalities, developers, contractors, neighborhood groups, and property owners. If you are an HOA member looking to install solar panels on your property, or you are an HOA seeking to bring solar installations to your community, contact an experienced attorney at The Zoghlin Group, PLLC for help. For questions or inquiries related to Environmental and Energy Law, please contact Jacob H. Zoghlin, Esq. or Mindy L. Zoghlin, Esq. at The Zoghlin Group, PLLC.

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