Auric Solar Meridian house (copy)

Auric Solar installs solar panels on houses, such as this one in Meridian, and commercial facilities. 

BOISE — Legislation to ban homeowners associations from prohibiting rooftop solar panel installation was unanimously approved Monday by the Senate State Affairs Committee. 

HB 158, co-sponsored by Reps. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, and Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom, would protect a homeowner’s right to install solar panels and prohibit installation restrictions, unless the installation would violate building code or safety requirements.

"(The bill) seeks to strike a balance between homeowner property interests in utilizing solar power and HOA interests in ensuring the sightliness of units within their organizations," Rubel said.

The bill was sent to the House for amendments earlier this session amid concerns with the bill’s language and whether it would prevent “pop-up” solar panels, which could be placed in any way on a rooftop, whether it be at a non-parallel angle or mounted several inches off the rooftop.

Since then, Rubel said they've updated the bill in order to "strike that right balance," allowing people to install solar panels on their roofs, while still helping HOAs maintain their rights. The new language ensures that HOAs can set reasonable rules regarding solar panel alignment, location and color.  

"We've talked to every person we could possibly find that was in opposition to this, and worked out agreements with everyone," Armstrong said. "I think we're in really good shape." 

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Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, expressed concern with whether HOAs should be asked to steer away from their own covenants. 

"How are we not imposing on their rights coming in as a state and mandating that they cannot keep those covenants?" Hill asked.

Rubel said the bill's language mirrors other state laws, which haven’t run into issues and have proven to be successful.

Idaho is one of few states in the West without a law like this. Western states such as Oregon and California already have laws in place that protect people’s rights to install solar panels, according to Rubel. 

"It's been a fairly significant impairment to the industry across the West," Rubel said. "Solar adoption is around one-and-a-half percent of the energy mix, and in Idaho it's under half a percent and one of the reasons is this — it's that so many homeowners are being restricted." 

Savannah Cardon is the Caldwell reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow her on Twitter, @savannahlcardon, or reach her at 208-465-8172.

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