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Fighting For Solar

Solar power. It's been around for decades.

It's safe, it's reliable, it's environmentally friendly.

Who would have guessed when we went to install solar on our building here at Clean Air Gardening that we would have trouble getting permission from the City of Dallas!

After all, this is the same city that runs a web site called Green Dallas and that claims to be a "national leader in addressing environmental issues of concern." A bold claim indeed, judging by the serious air quality problems that we have in North Texas.

We hired an experienced solar panel installation company, Ecowatt Design, to design and install our 3.2 kilowatt system, which will provide up to 1/3 of our electric power.

Ecowatt Design has installed solar panels all over the state of Texas, including the nearby suburb of Dallas, Highland Park.

In every other city in Texas, you only need a simple electrical permit to hook up your solar panels, and you're done. It's so easy that they typically grant the permit on the spot.

But not in Dallas!

First, we were required to obtain stamped architectural drawings of our roof. These required the services of an architect, and cost several hundred dollars.

Then, we were required to apply for a master building permit instead of just an electrical permit. To put it in perspective, a master building permit is what you get when you build a brand new building from the ground up.

Each time we came back to try to meet their requirements, the city would throw up a new hurdle.

Next, the city decided that they wanted an engineer's stamp, too. This would add another $1,500 to the cost of the $30,000 solar installation, on top of the amount we had already paid an architect.

We were astounded that we would have to go through all this, when it is so easy in every other Texas city. What did Dallas have against renewable energy?

We contacted our city council representative, Angela Hunt, who was helpful and sympathetic to our cause.

We blogged about it.

And we contacted the local news media, too.

But in the end, the city of Dallas stood firm, and we were forced to spend the money on the engineer's stamp and to get the master building permit.

We lost the battle against the city in regard to the permits required and the wasteful extra expenses incurred.

But we still won the war, because we are moving forward with solar power anyway!

We finally began the installation in the last half of March, 2008.

We're generating almost a third of our own electricity from solar power now!