Brecksville residents work with local government to improve solar permitting rules.

By Luke Sulfridge on October 15, 2018

Fred and Annette Pedersen joined the Cuyahoga County Solar Co-op earlier this year to have a solar system installed on their family home. They ran into barriers when the co-op installer pursued a permit for the system. Permitting rules in Brecksville limited solar to roofs that weren’t visible from the street. It further limited even those non-visible roofs to less than 25% coverage.

Cleveland State University Director of Sustainability, Jennifer McMillin, also a Brecksville resident stepped in to help and worked with half a dozen community members and local officials to improve the policy. “People are eager to find ways to genuinely live a more sustainable lifestyle…and anything we can do as a community to make those visions a reality is a win-win for the environment and the economy,” McMillin said.

Later this year, a revised set of solar permitting rules, that strengthen homeowner rights in going solar are expected to be reviewed by the local planning commission for consideration. The Pedersens feel strongly with the support of their neighbors that efficiency of the system should be the primary consideration in placement of their system. “We want the efficiency of the solar system to be the governing factor of where our panels are to be located,” Annette Petersen said.

The original south facing system design will provide 83% offset of the Pedersens’ current electricity usage. Moving that system to a different section of the home would drop production to 57% of their electricity need. It would make the decision to go solar less likely according to Fred Pedersen. Brecksville’s planning commission has already decided that the 25% restriction is antiquated and is now considering additional changes to allow the system needs to inform design rather than visibility. The home is not located in a historic neighborhood.

Thanks to the citizen group, the Pedersens’ persistence, and interest from local officials in modernizing rules, everyone in Brecksville may soon have more opportunities to go solar. The City of Brecksville has been very helpful in helping the family navigate through the process. This has been a great example of neighbors and local government working together to advance solar in their community.  The Cuyahoga County Solar Co-op was a program partnership with the Cuyahoga County Office of Sustainability.