Carson City residents described a darker side to earth-friendly, energy-smart solar panels and wind turbines at an Assembly committee hearing Monday.
There’s the eyesore of a sea of solar panels at a nearby school, the strobe-light effect of sun glinting from a 65-foot-tall windmill, and the noise described by some neighbors as a screeching siren.
“Am I going to be able to enjoy my backyard,” Carson City resident Bob Grosulak asked, “or will I have to live with a siren, a scream, a whomp-whomp, or a helicopter?”
Existing law allows local jurisdictions to restrict solar or wind apparatus on basis of the height, noise, or safety of the system. AB122, sponsored by Assemblyman Pete Livermore, R-Carson City, would also allow them to create rules about the system’s location and appearance.
But the bill got pushback during a hearing before the Assembly Government Affairs Committee from renewable energy advocates and some cities, who say the bill might quash a promising industry.
“I think the law is working,” said Jason Geddes, Environmental Services Administrator for the city of Reno, which is on a quest to be the next “green” city of the West and has installed solar arrays on numerous city buildings. “We get nervous about the word `appearance’ or anything else that would make it harder for people trying to move forward.”
Kyle Davis of the Nevada Conservation League warned that aesthetic restrictions could shut down the burgeoning industry in a state with vast solar resources – Nevada averages 300 sunny days per year.
“It’s a very important part of developing the renewable energy industry in our state,” Davis said.
Three separate groups offered amendments to the bill: The city of Henderson suggests the bill allow restrictions about setback, but not location. Clean Energy LLC proposes the law limit systems exceeding a certain size. Reno resident Ann Hall proposes requiring a third-party assessment to determine how effective a system would be in a proposed location.
Neighbors asked legislators to keep ugly installations from decreasing their property values and quality of life.
But others said a law restricting the aesthetics of a system was subjective and easily could be abused.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” said Leslie Medeiros, owner of The Solar Store in Carson City. “When our gas is $5 to $7 a gallon, how much more ugly or beautiful will it be?”