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Shadows on the Cathedral: Solar Access Laws in a Different Light

47 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2009 Last revised: 26 Apr 2010

Troy A. Rule

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2009

Abstract

Unprecedented growth in rooftop solar energy development is drawing increased attention to the issue of solar access. To operate effectively, solar panels require un-shaded access to the sun’s rays during peak sunlight hours. Some landowners are reluctant to invest in rooftop solar panels because they fear that a neighbor will erect a structure or grow a tree on nearby property that shades their panels. Existing statutory approaches to protecting solar access for such landowners vary widely across jurisdictions, and some approaches ignore the airspace rights of neighbors. Which rule regime for solar access protection best promotes the efficient allocation of scarce airspace, within the constraints of existing law? This Article applies Calabresi and Melamed’s “Cathedral” framework of property rules and liability rules to compare and analyze existing solar access laws and to evaluate a model solar access statute recently drafted under funding from the US Department of Energy. Surprisingly, the Article concludes that a statute implementing the Cathedral model’s seldom-used “Rule Four” is best suited for addressing solar access conflicts.

Keywords: rooftop solar energy, solar access, solar panels, landowner, calabresi, melamed, cathedral, property rules, rule four

Suggested Citation

Rule, Troy A., Shadows on the Cathedral: Solar Access Laws in a Different Light (December 1, 2009). University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-24; University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2010, p. 851 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1466224

Troy Rule (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

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