Couple looking to install solar panels gets stymied by regulations in Sugar Grove, Illinois – CBS Chicago

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SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (CBS) — A solar panel battle has lit up in Sugar Grove, with residents saying they have been forced to take their fight against tough municipal rules on clean energy all the way to village hall.

Sugar Grove homeowners Becky Brocker and Mike Rayburn told CBS 2 that eight months after ordering solar panels for their house, they were still stuck fighting local regulations — when they could be soaking up the sun.

The homeowners’ association in the couple’s neighborhood approved their plan for 37 solar panels on their roof — 30 in the back and seven in the front — but the village did not.

“Si it’s been kind of a wild ride,” Brocker said.

Brocker and Rayburn say village code in Sugar Grove is not setting residents up for solar success.

“It’s clear that there is a very huge advantage from a clean energy standpoint, you know, at the local level all the way up to the federal level,” said Brocker.

Per the ordinance, “No roof mounted system [of solar panels] shall be placed on a roof plane adjacent a front yard or corner side yard.”

For Brocker and Rayburn, that means only installing the 30 back panels and not the seven in front – and thus losing 20% of their system.

“We would save $10,000 more if we had the full array,” Brocker said.

“It’s taking money out of the pockets of residents in the short term and long term,” added Rayburn.

Brocker and Rayburn found the fight worthwhile — not only for them and for savings on utility costs, but also for clean energy in Illinois.

“When you look at federal legislation and state legislation, it seems like there’s this train that’s running — and I kind of feel like our town is trying to step in the way of it,” Brocker said.

“It’s stifling demand and holding back the village from moving forward in general,” added Rayburn.

What the couple didn’t realize at first was that it would take eight months of back-and-forth, countless emails and letters, a required fee of nearly $800 fee for a formal petition to change the village rule, and several public meetings just to the point where a rule change would be considered.

The Sugar Grove Village Board was set to vote on changing the ordinance Tuesday.

CBS 2 took a larger look at the issue, and found Illinois state rules allow cities, towns, and villages to come up with their own guidelines when it comes to solar energy. But state laws do encourage solar and alternative energy.

Scott Allen of the Citizen Utility Board said his organization believes the ordinance in Sugar Grove goes against the spirit of the state laws.

“Policies or ordinances that would in some cases absolutely restrict somebody from mounting solar on their house goes against the spirit of the laws that we’ve passed in the state — the Climate Equitable Jobs Act in 2021, the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016,” said Allen. “Those laws say that we want to make sure that people have equal access to renewable energy rooftop solar.”

CBS 2 started asking Sugar Grove for information and an interview more than a week ago. No one was willing to sit down for an interview, but after several requests, the village did send this statement from Village Administrator Scott Koeppel:

“The Village of Sugar Grove Board of Trustees is evaluating potential changes to its solar regulations through an ordinance amendment, which will be included for action on the April 16 Village Board Meeting Agenda. The Village values input from its constituents and encourages sharing feedback and participation during the public comment portion of the upcoming meeting.”

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