Victorian Solar Owners’ Right To Sunlight Protected

Solar panels and the right to sunlight

Image: sdblack0

Solar power systems will be protected from overshadowing by new neighbouring developments under planning provisions in Victoria that will take effect from late this month.

Amendments to the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes means the potential of overshadowing of existing home solar hot water and solar power systems must be taken into account in planning decisions.

“We’re backing solar and tackling power prices head on – making it cheaper and easier for more people to generate their own power and protecting their panels from overshadowing,” said Minister for Planning Richard Wynne. “We’re getting the planning right to protect residents against inappropriate development, tackle climate change and cut the cost of living for Victorian households.”

National Approach Required

While many jurisdictions across Australia have rules in place concerning the amount of sunlight a property receives, these don’t address solar panels specifically. A home may get the required access while the part of the rooftop hosting solar panels is threatened by overshadowing from new developments. The solar owner may then face a lengthy, expensive fight to prevent the development occurring or forcing the plans to be modified.

Writing for Sanctuary Magazine, Peter Clarke from Hones Lawyers has previously stated there needs to be a national approach to the right to sunlight.

“There should be a continued shift towards the protection of solar access in Australia, given the need to move towards a low carbon economy and increase the use of solar and battery storage at a residential and commercial level,” Mr. Clarke stated.

Even a small amount of shade can seriously impact the output of a solar power system, increasing system payback time. In a worst-case scenario, shade can render a system pretty much useless. The use of micro inverters and newer module technology such as half-cut solar panels can help in partial shading scenarios, but they are not a magic bullet for shade issues.

Solar Power And Heritage Areas In Victoria

Also announced by Minister Wynne was an amendment to tackle the issue of solar panels in heritage areas – including guidance on appropriate siting, colour and design.

“The new criteria will encourage renewable energy in heritage areas while protecting aesthetic values and are applicable to new systems only,” states the Victorian Government’s release.

Currently there are more than 354,000 small-scale solar power systems installed throughout Victoria. With the VIC Solar Homes rebate to potentially add up to 650,000 new systems over the next decade, issues of shading and heritage areas have become more pressing.

At the time of writing, the related amendments to the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP) didn’t seem to be available for viewing on Planning Schemes Online. This post will be updated once we track them down.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. This kind of issue was raised on my web page, some time ago;


    One of the changes that are needed, for both households who already have rooftop photovoltaic systems, and, for people who may be considering getting installed, rooftop photovoltaic systems, are changes to state and any higher, legislation, including to both planning legislation, and, the notorious tree legislation, so that any property owner who has a tree on the property, is legally and otherwise, responsible and liable for any loss or damage attributable to the tree, including, but not limited to, where the tree casts shadow on a residence on a different property, so as to interfere with the use, or, prospective use, of rooftop photovoltaic electricity generation, and/or, otherwise casts shadow on a residence in a property other than the property on which the tree stands, so as to cause increased energy consumption, such as extra heating being required during colder months, due to shadow being cast by the tree, on the residence, and, similarly, with planning, disallowing building development, including modifications, where such development would cause or increase shadow being cast on a building on a property other than the property on which the building is being developed, similarly, so as to interfere with the use, or, prospective use, of rooftop photovoltaic electricity generation, and/or, otherwise casts shadow on a residence in a property other than the property on which the building is being developed, so as to cause increased energy consumption, such as extra heating being required during colder months, due to shadow being cast by the change caused by the building development, on the residence that is not on the property on which the building being developed, stands.

    And we need all of Australia, to implement the protection for the right to use solar energy, including the more primitive states.

    • I live in Victoria – Whitehorse City Council area. I have been told by their Planning and Building Department that VC149 is a Planning Amendment, and it hasn’t made its way into any Building Regulations. Thus the Private Building Surveyor has no requirement to consider this Amendment, and no requirement to consult with Council, or contact the neighbour (me) when granting a building permit. The building is at lock-up stage and will clearly overshadow some of my solar panels. I have received email responses on this matter from the Private Building Surveyor, Council, my Local Councillor and the Victorian Building Authority. They all play a straight bat, and say – “it’s not in the Building Regulations”. How does it get into the Building Regulations? I will next make contact with the Minister for Planning and my Local State MP. All suggestions welcome. It looks like I live in a primitive State.

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