Know your rights to solar or wind energy systems
Wisconsin has several laws that protect a resident's right to install and operate a solar or wind energy system. These laws cover zoning restrictions by local governments, private land use restrictions, and system owner rights to unobstructed access to resources. Wisconsin permitting rules and model policy for small wind can be found here. The state's original laws, enacted in 1982, have subsequently been amended and expanded numerous times.
Limitations on local zoning restrictions
First, under Wis. Stat. § 66.0401, local governments -- counties, towns, cities and villages -- may not place any restriction on the installation or use of solar or wind energy systems unless the restriction:
Limitations on private land use restrictions
A separate law, Wis. Stat. § 236.292, voids all restrictions on platted land that prevent or unduly restrict the construction or operation of solar and wind energy systems. This law effectively prohibits private land use controls (e.g., deed restrictions, homeowner association regulations, easements, etc.) from preventing the installation and operation of wind and solar energy systems. In the case of both access laws - public and private - solar energy systems are defined broadly to include both thermal and electrical technologies.
Right to sun and wind
Other sections of Wisconsin law address a solar or wind system owner's right to retain unobstructed access to the wind or sun. Wis. Stat. § 700.41 effectively freezes the permitted building envelope of properties adjacent to a solar or wind system to whatever it was at the time the system was constructed. This allows the system owner to construct a system based on existing zoning regulations and be certain that future zoning amendments and development will not render the system ineffective. Separately, Wis. Stat. § 844.22 states that any structure or vegetative growth that occurs after the installation of a solar or wind energy system and interferes with its function is considered to be a private nuisance. The purpose of this law is to provide system owners with a remedy to prevent interference with their systems in a situation where none of the other statutory protections can be applied. The right to unobstructed resource access can only be applied to actions that take place after a system is constructed.
Focus on Energy helps Wisconsin residents offset installation costs by offering Cash-Back Rewards for qualifying solar electric equipment. Complete and submit the Reservation Application along with your proposal documenting a paid $500 down payment toward installation. Upon approval of the Reservation Application, a Cash-Back Reward will be held for three months. Systems not placed in operation within three months will lose their reservation and applicants will have to submit a new Reservation Application to receive a Cash-Back Reward.
A taxpayer may claim a credit of 30% of qualified expenditures for a system that serves a dwelling unit located in the United States that is owned and used as a residence by the taxpayer. Expenditures with respect to the equipment are treated as made when the installation is completed. If the installation is at a new home, the "placed in service" date is the date of occupancy by the homeowner. Expenditures include labor costs for on-site preparation, assembly or original system installation, and for piping or wiring to interconnect a system to the home. If the federal tax credit exceeds tax liability, the excess amount may be carried forward to the succeeding taxable year. The excess credit may be carried forward until 2016, but it is unclear whether the unused tax credit can be carried forward after then. The maximum allowable credit, equipment requirements and other details vary by technology, as outlined below.
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