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BEYOND STUPID: Texas city bans residents from using solar panels if they are visible


A city in eastern Texas has banned residents from installing solar panels if these are visible from their roofs. Officials in the city of Tyler implemented the ban on solar panels back in 2012. According to authorities, the prohibition on solar panels was put in place as they look unsightly on top of residential homes. The ban later affected a company specializing in solar power installations that plied its trade in Tyler.

Wright-Way Services recently ran into this problem in June 2021. It specialized in solar power installations, real estate and construction and remodeling. The company had been servicing the region for more than a decade and had not encountered any problem with installing solar panels all across eastern Texas.

However, a meeting with city officials on the afternoon of June 18 revealed that the Wright-Way Services violated the 2012 ordinance. Owner Rudy Wright told CBS19: “We just got notified just a few days ago … that they were denying us [permits to install], because then they cited just the one sentence of the ordinance.”

The ordinance read: “Residential solar installations must be situated so that they are screened from view from public streets.” Wright said he was aware of the law’s existence, but added that the city of Tyler never denied his permits for earlier projects. Given the turn of events, Wright said he was unsure if his company can continue doing business in the city.

Tyler City Director of Planning Kyle Kingma told the news outlet that based on the information Wright provided, Wright-Way Service’s project violated the ordinance. “The application that we had before us did not meet the criteria. And so if we could have some sort of demonstration that it wasn’t seen from the road, then we can approve it,” he said.

Kingma added that the city reviewed every solar panel job on a case-to-case basis. Officials looked at many things – such as curves on the road and a line of sight analysis from city streets – before giving any project a thumbs-up.

Tyler residents wanting to go solar are left at a disadvantage

Unfortunately, this left Wright unaware if any future project he submits will be approved or not. Wright lamented on the matter, with his speech directed at Kingma and other officials: “How can I go bid solar in Tyler and be able to know whether I’m wasting my time or the customer’s time because you guys are not going to approve it? And he couldn’t answer that question and that it’s … on a case-by-case basis,”

However, Kingma provided a ray of hope by pointing out that the 2012 ordinance could be modified. He said that if enough people support a revision to the rule, it could be changed near the end of the summer season. (Related: The solar energy industry is exploding with new technologies, including “solar paint”.)

Ever since a blizzard hit Texas earlier this year, companies such as Wright-Way Services saw a spike in calls for solar panel installations. The instability of Texas’s electric grid appeared to contribute to the demand for solar panels. Many Texans had their power supply cut off for days amid the February 2021 blizzard.

Now, the intense summer heat also threatened to cripple Texas’s power grid as more people use their appliances to stay cool. Because of this, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) asked Texans to conserve power as the main grid struggled to keep up with demand.

In a June 14 statement, ERCOT urged Texans to conserve power from June 14 to 18. It cited a significant number of unexpected power plant outages and record use of electricity due to hot weather for the tight power grid conditions. According to the statement, approximately 12,000 megawatts were offline on June 14 – sufficient to power 2.4 million homes on a hot summer day.

ERCOT officials added that the power plant outages were unexpected. ERCOT Senior Director of Systems Planning Warren Lasher said: “I don’t have any potential reasons [for the plant outages] that I can share at this time. [The outages are] not consistent with fleet performance that we have seen over the last few summers.” He added that the number of plants forced offline on June 14 is “very concerning.”

This was not the first time ERCOT asked Texans to cut back on power use. In April 2021, it made similar calls for reducing electricity consumption because many power plants were offline for maintenance at that time. Some plants also needed repairs following damage from the February winter storm, making them inoperable. (Related: Texans have filed multiple lawsuits against ERCOT for failing to adequately respond to the cold snap.)

Visit SolarPanels.news to read more articles about solar panel installations in the city of Tyler.

Sources include:

CleanTechnica.com

CBS19.tv

TexasTribune.org

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