Should there be rules in place to protect Calgary homeowners with solar panels?   

Imagine this: You invest thousands of dollars in solar panels and then you find out your neighbor next door wants to build a bigger, higher property that will block the precious sunlight.

That’s the reality for one woman in the southwest Calgary community of Bankview, who spoke out at a city council public hearing this week.

The hearing was to re-designate the land, which would allow for the construction of two homes on the property with four units total.  

The re-designation would increase the maximum height of the build from 10 metres to 11 metres, which the woman said would block the much needed sunlight for her solar panels.

“The increased height of a metre at my  neighbor’s house as proposed would at least reduce — if not block off — my newly installed solar panels, thus creating a negative financial impact on me,” the woman said.

She told council Tuesday that she’s not opposed to the development, just the increased height of it.

This sparked many questions from members of city council, who pressed city administration about what can be done.

Derek Pomreinke with the city’s planning department said that currently, low- density districts don’t offer any sunlight protection.

“We currently don’t have anything in the land use bylaw that would allow us to limit or shape the height of a building based on the solar availability of the parcel next door,” he said.

Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans asked if this issues is something the city is looking into for the future when it comes to development .

Pomreinke confirmed it’s something that is on the city’s radar.

“It’s a step that we are moving in, with the addition of climate measures with a power in the land use by-law. It is something the development authority can take into account when reviewing a discretionary use permit. But at this time we don’t have anything specific on the books for solar protection,” he said.

Alex Tyndale is the founder of Solar YYC, a local solar panel company in the city.

He says these types of situations have happened before and he’s not exactly sure there’s anything the city can do to help. 

“I understand it is very frustrating for people who have gone solar, or who are thinking about going solar, and I understand that it may cut into my business a little bit, but people need a place to live,” he said, adding housing affordability should take precedence over going solar.

Tyndale said a majority of his clientele come from the suburbs — not the inner city — so he doesn’t expect his business to take much of a hit should measures like blanket re-zoning become a reality in Calgary.

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