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Oct. 27, 2011 Volume 33, No. 10

MU law professor looks to improve solar energy laws


Project receives federal grant from SolarTech

In an era of rising energy prices and growing concerns over climate change, demand for renewable energy sources such as solar power has steadily increased. One hurdle many potential solar energy users face is a lack of adequate state and local laws to enable the efficient use of solar energy. To help address this problem, Troy Rule, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri School of Law and a renewable energy law expert, is drafting new model statutes and ordinances that should make it easier for people to use solar power.

Rule says one of the obstacles encountered by landowners who are considering new solar panels is solar access. A person who wants to install solar panels on his roof must be confident that his neighbor will not build a second story on his house or plant a large tree that would shade the panels from the sun.

Rule is seeking to provide state and local government officials with clearer guidelines and better model language for enabling citizens to protect solar access on their properties.

“Solar access is an issue that can be a major obstacle to solar energy development,” Rule said. “The statutes and ordinances we are drafting are aimed at eliminating such obstacles. It won’t cost local governments much to implement these provisions, and the provisions will better address solar access disputes and thus promote solar energy use.”

The new model ordinances will be structured to allow for easier adaptation into existing zoning codes and will include an innovative set of optional provisions designed to incentivize developers to consider solar access when planning new real estate developments.

Funding for the project comes from a $52,800 grant from SolarTech, a nonprofit industry group with a mission to remove cost-barriers and help accelerate the growth of U.S. solar markets.

SolarTech’s Solar3.0 process innovation platform recently won a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop model codes, standards, rules and processes that will enable reduced deployment times and costs for solar installations.