Are "aesthetic reasons" a valid excuse to justify banning rooftop solar?

Solar Panels on roof
CC BY-SA 2.0 Flickr

You're under arrest for aesthetic crimes!

A little while ago, Elon Musk mentioned that he wanted SolarCity to make "cool looking" solar panels in its upcoming 1.2-million-square-foot solar panel Gigafactory. This led me to ask you, dear, reader, what you thought of the current look of solar panels: hot or not?

Opinions were divided among TreeHugger readers at the time, with about 50% saying that they thought solar panels look good, 15% saying they look bad, 27% saying that they don't like the look but might if they improve, and the balance having other more nuanced opinions.

Well, if that was just a personal, subjective opinion, a question of individual taste, things would be quite simple. Don't like solar panels? Don't get them.

But of course, some people also want to force their neighbors not to get them because they don't like the look. An example of this is taking place in some suburbs in Texas, where all kinds of roadblocks are being put in place to stop people from getting rooftop solar without the approval of the aesthetics police:

Since December, North Richland Hills has required residents to survey their neighbors and go before the planning and zoning committee before installing solar panels that face the street. Until then, all they needed was a construction permit. Now the process can stretch for months and cost close to $600.

Of course the longer, harder, more expensive you make something, the fewer people will do it. There might be some situations where this is warranted, such as if someone wants to build and industrial-scale solar array in a residential area. But for a few panels on a roof, the issue is more about looks than anything else.

I kind of wish the aesthetic police was around to keep people from buying ugly SUVs and parking them in front of their houses, but hey, I suppose they're too busy from keeping people who want to take responsibility for their energy use and make the world a better place with clean energy from doing so. I also prefer something that looks a bit bad to a huge coal plant that is out of sight.

You can probably guess my opinion on preventing others from going solar, but maybe I'm an outlier. I'm curious to know what you think, dear reader. Please vote in the poll below and let's find out where TreeHugger readers stand on this issue:


Mind you, how solar panels look isn't the only reason used by the NIMBYs. This one is interesting:

Another member, Tim Welch, went so far as to suggest solar installations might one day kill someone.

“Next thing you know someone has a heart attack and [emergency responders] can’t get in the house because someone has a solar panel in the front yard,” he said.

I'm not sure I understand how that's supposed to work - someone installs solar panels at ground level in front of their front door? - but the fear-mongering is evident. As if solar panels are in any way more likely to block emergency responders than anything else that people own.

Via Dallas News

Tags: Solar Energy | Solar Power

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