In the ongoing battle to expand solar technology in our cities and towns, aesthetics is often the biggest stumbling block. Claims that PV panels are an eyesore, and detract from the stylistic character of surrounding architecture, often prevent projects from getting off the ground. Here in Washington, DC, nothing proves this point better than the neighborhood of Georgetown.
All renovations, new building projects, and additions to existing structures that lie within the limits of historic Georgetown must comply with the rules and regulations of the Old Georgetown Board. An arm of the Commission of Fine Arts, the board ensures projects comply with standards of historic preservation in Georgetown.
These standards include a regulation that requires all solar panels installed in Georgetown to be out of sight to bystanders or pedestrians at the street level, creating restrictions in the size and placement of panels on homeowners’ roofs. Beyond the specific restrictions, the approval process for additions and renovations can be time consuming, which discourages undecided residents from considering solar technology as a viable option.
However, there is a bright side to this story. A small non-profit called Georgetown Energy, started by a group of Georgetown University students, is promoting solar technology in the community. Through partnerships with local installers, and by acting as a liaison between residents and the Old Georgetown Board, the group is slowly making the process more user friendly, and helping community members join the millions who are choosing solar energy as the solution to their energy needs.
Georgetown Energy is hosting an event on October 10th for 350.org’s 10/10/10 Global Work Party, where they will be unveiling the community’s first solar installation. I’ll be there to help support solar and will publish a new post with details of the event.