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Lee’s Summit homeowner fights for right to install solar panels

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Tim Ely wants to do something to his Lee's Summit home that he believes is every homeowner's right: install solar panels.

But so far, Ely hasn't been able to get his homeowners association -- Arborwalk Community Association -- to agree. His struggle is a common one all across Missouri.

For the last three years, Missouri Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, has fought to get a bill through the Legislature that would prevent cities or homeowners associations from banning solar panels.

"I believe every American citizen who owns property in this country should be able to control their own power production," said Holsman.

The proposed law would include restrictions on where the panels could be placed. For example, panels wouldn't be allowed in a front yard.

Holsman is hoping his bill -- which has never made it out of committee -- will have more success this session. Holsman said in the past he has faced opposition from lawmakers who don't believe in climate change.

"Renewable energy has for better or worse been framed as part of a solution to a problem that some legislators don't believe exists," Holsman said.

What none can deny are the savings that solar energy can provide to monthly energy bills.

Charlie Copeland of Kansas City said his monthly electric bill dropped by 85 percent after he installed solar panels three years ago.

Some months, he said, his electric bill doesn't cost him a dime, other months can be as high as $30.

Copeland lives in the Armour Hills Neighborhood Association, which has a covenant that has no restrictions on solar panels. Before installing his panels, Copeland notified his neighbors and got a permit from the city.

Copeland said he has heard no complaints even though his panels are on the front of his home, where he gets the most sun.

"Most people who walk by don't even notice they are there," he said.

Copeland, a home contractor, said he expects to recoup the more than $30,000 he spent for the panels within seven years with the help of tax credits and his reduced electric bill.

Meanwhile back in Lee's Summit, Ely hasn't given up on his fight to go solar and recently his homeowners association has provided him with some hope.

The HOA said it would allow solar panels if Ely can show that at least two thirds of all homeowners have no objection. Ely is hoping to have the votes he needs by next month.