South Burlington planning to require solar on new residential housing

This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.

We have a housing shortage in Vermont. Requiring solar makes housing more expensive. According to VTDigger: “While the amendment would only regulate new residential buildings with four or more stories, there is a draft residential energy code being worked through that would apply a similar standard to all new residential buildings.”

We need housing more than we need solar panels.

Tom Evslin

Vermont should require that any land on which commercial solar panels are going to be deployed be first rezoned so that housing can be built there. The solar panels can then go on top of the houses. The fields of solar arrays alongside our roads are not beautiful or picturesque. The land would look better and be more useful if it had houses as well as solar panels on it.

Some land is not suitable for housing. We shouldn’t require housing without adequate septic, utilities, and water. However, those requirements should not be an excuse for confining development to those places with municipal services or an excuse for endless permit challenges. Our country land is being squandered when it is used for solar panels without houses under them.

The Act 250 reforms which the legislature elected not to pursue would have made it easier to build housing in the 90+% of the state which is rural. Opponents argue that permitting reforms will lead to suburban sprawl and destroy Vermont’s natural beauty. There’s nothing beautiful about glass and steel solar panels. There’s nothing beautiful about homelessness or substandard housing. Anywhere commercial solar panels are allowed, multifamily housing and housing on small lots should be allowed as well.

The permitting reform that did get through the legislature and which Gov. Scott signed made it easier to build multifamily housing in the state’s urban areas. South Burlington is making it harder to build by imposing additional costs. We don’t need to require (or forbid) solar panels. We do need give priority to housing over solar panels as a use of both our urban and rural land.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

11 thoughts on “South Burlington planning to require solar on new residential housing

  1. Ask the fire department how they would deal with a house fire that has solar panels on the roof. You can’t shut the power off and you can’t ventilate the roof. What will it do to the insurance rates?

  2. Everyone who wants this, should be required to have a smart meter, and when the sun doesn’t shine enough to carry the load — the power to the homes and offices of these people is shut off until the sun comes out again. That will educate the idiots.

    • Especially on a week like this one with NO sun shining. They would go bug crap crazy not being able to charge their iphones…much less flush their toilets or keep their food cold.

  3. All above comments will not be heeded by the proponents of solar on top of new roofs.

    Soon, they realize, just new roofs is not enough.
    A structure that overhangs a building by 4 or 5 ft on all sides would carry at least 2 times as many panel.

    But what about big box stores?
    Why not require them to reinforce their roofs and cover them with panels.
    Also require them to cover their parking lots with roofs for panels

    We do not need to use any land for panel. THAT APPROACH IS SOOOOOO UNIMAGINATIVE

    • The problem with solar is it’s output is greatest at MIDDAY, and
      bull-manure-little most of the rest of the day, including peak demand hours of late afternoon/early evening.

      And then there are those overcast rainy days, and those snow and ice covered days

      Subsidizing such crappy, unreliable electricity is the height of folly

      It would be much better to have a very strict energy code for all buildings in Vermont.
      Nowadays, building highly sealed/ highly insulated houses is much easier than 20 to 30 years ago.
      Such housing is REQUIRED in Europe, already for at least 3 decades

  4. While I agree Roof tops are the only place the inefficient solar panels should be it seems quite communistic to demand they be on all new residences. I certainly hope the S Burlington taxpayers revolt on this idea or are they the ones sending the climate nazis to Montpeculiar?

  5. A couple things:

    I read today that these solar panels in the northeast are producing less than 50% of what they are supposed to be right now because of the smoke from the wild fires up in Canada.
    I also heard my weatherman on local radio say today that these fires up in Canada are not going to go away any time soon- if at all.
    So now we have not just winters and dark days that make them not work right, there is smoke from wild fires!
    They need a lot of soaking rain up in Canada and it’s not coming AND there are growing stories saying that many of the fires have been set.
    So how about that…

    And, what is the recycling plan for all these solar panels that they want to force on people?
    Is it to go bury them in Wyoming?
    What will it cost the homeowner to deal with?
    Keep in mind that every single installation is going to get old and if you own that house, the problem is on YOU.
    It’s very likely that it took a loan to buy these solar panels and it’s going to take another loan to get rid of them.
    (and what are they doing to the ground water as they age?, there are MANY unanswered questions and liabilities)

  6. I think it’s worth noting that this is a predictable development. We’ve accustomed ourselves to an avalanche of mandates about how we can use our property…how we are to live our lives. Our heritage of the individual citizen’s “pursuit of happiness” seems to be evaporating. Are we governed by cooperation with our neighbors or ruled by the agendas of our elected ascendant betters?

    • The hidden agenda is, of course, the crony relationship between the legislators, regulators, and solar providers. I suspect the money passing through the hands of these shysters is significant.

      Keep in mind that the founders of the solar company, SunCommon, served on VPIRG (“Fighting the climate crisis, repowering Vermont, and saving Vermonter’s money with clean energy solutions”), lobbied the legislature for convenient solar regulations, sold their company for $40 million, and surely provided significant political contributions (kickbacks) to their benefactors.

      After all, one of the three VT Public Utility commissioners who must approve all of this, Margaret Cheney, who had no experience in public utility management when appointed, is Vermont’s U.S. Senator Peter Welch’s wife. And our friend Peter serves on the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development committee.

      It doesn’t take a vivid imagination to see the graft and corruption going on. But it does take some thought figuring out how to stop these thieves.

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