The majority of Irvine’s residential neighborhoods are managed by Homeowner Associations (HOAs; map of all Irvine HOAs) which review alterations to homes ranging from paint colors, architectural styles and landscaping.
In addition, HOAs generally require review of solar energy systems including traditional Solar PV panels mounted to roofs, roof tiles made of solar PV material, and ground-mounted solar panels (ground-mounted systems are permitted in rear yards only, but not within the rear or side setback areas)1.
The California Solar Rights Act (link) is a State law which places certain limitations on the type of review or regulations that a City or HOA can impose upon a homeowner proposing a solar energy system.
The Solar Shade Act (link) is a State law which provides limited protection to solar energy system owners from shading caused by trees and shrubs on adjacent properties. The law seeks to prevent a property owner from allowing trees or shrubs to shade an existing solar energy system installed on a neighboring property, provided the shading trees or shrubs were planted after the solar collecting device was installed.
While City staff cannot provide advice or enforcement action regarding HOA review as these are private property matters, homeowners are encouraged to work with their HOA Board and consult the Solar Rights Act.
The Energy Policy Initiative Center (EPIC) is a nonprofit research center which put together a useful paper written in plain English on the Solar Rights Act covering issues such as what restrictions an HOA can put in place. A link can be found here.
Ground-mounted Solar Energy Systems Guide - Rear Yards Versus Rear Setbacks
1 Ground-mounted solar panels are generally allowed in rear yard areas; however they may not be within the rear setback or side setback area. The setback area is specific for each zoning category and is generally 5 to 10 feet for side setback areas and 10 feet for rear setback areas. For more information see this slide (link) and contact the Development Assistance Counter at 949-724-6308.
Homeowners and Businesses which install solar energy systems may be eligible for a variety of rebates, incentives, and tax credits.