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Residents: Looks matter

Home's new solar panels may be good for environment, neighbors say, but they produce bad glare and don't fit the area's aesthetic.

June 17, 2010|By Sarah Peters
(Kent Treptow )

When Bob Olson's Sunday afternoon was disrupted by a beam of light glaring down onto the porch of his cozy Balboa Island home, he sprang into action.

The May appearance of 168 solar panels, which face the northeast side of Balboa Island from a hill, has left Olson with a two-and-a-half hour window daily in which the reflecting sunlight creates an intense glare, he said.

Olson is organizing a coalition of homeowners to take action against the project, starting with a petition to the city to have the panels moved to the Rizzone's rooftop near their home on the hillside above Bayside Drive.

“I'm all for going green, and I'm not trying to stop anyone from having solar panels,” Olson said. “What I don't understand is why in the world they didn't put the panels on the roof, where it would be more fitting with the look of the community.”

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The 3,000-square-foot solar project is part of Stephen and Mashid Rizzone's longstanding plan to create a fully “green” dream home and impart to their children a legacy of environmental responsibility, Stephen Rizzone said.

“We are certainly concerned about our neighbors, and we have tried to respond to all concerns as best we can,” Rizzone said. “We have made every effort to comply with all laws and regulations. The project is fully permitted and approved by the city.”

However, the solar panels are here to stay, said Rizzone.

Some light reflecting off the panels is a natural effect caused by the protective glass casing that covers many of manufacturer's solar panels, said Lori Green, director of research and development for the UC Irvine Center for Solar Energy.

Anti-reflective coating used on all glass coverings should make any reflection almost unnoticeable, she said.

Plastic coverings, which are less reflective, but also less durable, are beginning to be used by manufacturers in small, rooftop installations.

But plastic may not be the practical choice for a few more years, Green
said.

While glass covers the Rizzone's solar panels, the glass is tempered to decrease glare, said Rita Edwards, marketing manager for Northern California-based Premier Power Renewable Energy.

Premier Power installed the solar panels in the Rizzone's project and has used the same tempered glass coverings in past projects with success, including a 2008 development at a Nevada airport where minimizing glare was the upmost priority, Edwards said.

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