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Solar Rights

Eligibility 
Residential
Multifamily Residential
Savings Category 
Solar - Passive
Solar Water Heat
Solar Space Heat
Solar Thermal Process Heat
Solar Photovoltaics
Solar Pool Heating
Program Info
Sector Name 
State
State 
North Carolina
Program Type 
Solar/Wind Access Policy
Summary 

Cities and counties in North Carolina generally may not adopt ordinances prohibiting the installation of "a solar collector that gathers solar radiation as a substitute for traditional energy for water heating, active space heating and cooling, passive heating, or generating electricity for residential property."* However, city and county ordinances may prohibit the installation of solar-energy collectors that are visible from the ground and installed (1) on the facade of a structure that faces areas open to common or public access; (2) on a roof surface that slopes downward toward the same areas open to common or public access that the facade of the structure faces; or (3) within the area set off by a line running across the facade of the structure extending to the property boundaries on either side of the facade, and those areas of common or public access faced by the structure.

Furthermore, deed restrictions, covenants or similar binding agreements that run with the land recorded on or after October 1, 2007,** that would prohibit the installation of solar-energy collectors for residential property on land subject to the deed restriction, covenant or agreement are void and unenforceable. However, this provision does not apply to solar-energy collectors that are visible from the ground and installed:

  • On the facade of a structure that faces areas open to common or public access;
  • On a roof surface that slopes downward toward the same areas open to common or public access that the facade of the structure faces; or
  • Within the area set off by a line running across the facade of the structure extending to the property boundaries on either side of the facade, and those areas of common or public access faced by the structure.

City and county ordinances, deeds, covenants and other binding agreements may regulate the location or screening of a solar-energy collector, provided they do not have the effect of preventing the reasonable use of a solar-energy collector for a detached single-family home. In any civil action related to North Carolina's solar-access laws, the court may award costs and reasonable attorneys' fees to the prevailing party.

* SB 670 of 2007 used the term "detached single-family residences". HB 1387 of 2009 changed this term to "residential property". The sections of the bill dealing with city and county ordinances use a simple definition for residential property: "property where the predominant use is for residential purposes." The section of the bill dealing with deed restrictions and covenants uses a more nuanced definition for residential property, specifically stating: "residential property does not include any condominium created under Chapter 47A or 47C of the General Statutes located in a multi-story building containing units having horizontal boundaries described in the declaration. As used in this section, the term "declaration" has the same meaning as in G.S. 47A-3 or G.S. 47C-1-103, depending on the chapter of the General Statutes under which the condominium was created."

** SB 670 of 2007 established that the law applied only to deed restrictions, covenants or similar binding agreements recorded after October 1, 2007. HB 1387, in amending the law to apply to a wider definition of "residential property", established that the law only applies to property fitting the new definition if the deed restriction or covenant was recorded after December 1, 2009.