Man told solar panels must go
By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
With the abundant sunshine in 'Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe homeowner Matthew Calloni thought that purchasing a solar water heater made good common sense.
He could trim his electric bill by 30 percent and help the environment, too.
But the board of directors for the homeowners association where he lives Ke 'Aina Kai Townhomes disagreed. It has threatened to take Calloni to court if he doesn't remove the solar panels on his garage roof by June 21.
That makes no sense to Calloni, a 36-year-old sergeant first class in the Army.
"It's an incredible waste of resources not to use solar energy in 'Ewa, but the association is not interested in finding a way to accommodate solar," he said.
Calloni and his wife bought the two-bedroom home in July 2001. They had a solar water heater installed that November at a cost of about $4,000.
According to Calloni, the installation company told him he did not need the association's permission because a solar water heater was his right under state law.
Last summer, after months of debate, the association's board of directors said Calloni was wrong because the garage was a "common element" not covered by the law, he said.
The association told Calloni it was concerned that the solar system would adversely affect the warranty of the garage roof and exterior siding, Calloni said.
But Calloni refused to remove the solar system.
"They said we are not anti-solar, it's a warranty issue," Calloni said. "Just because you can say 'no' doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. They could have just as easily approved it."
In April, Calloni received a letter demanding fines and legal fees from attorneys hired by the board.
Last month, a second letter informed him he owed a $75 fine and $748 in attorneys fees. It also threatened to sue.
Anne Anderson, whose firm Neeley & Anderson LLP sent the letters, said the roof warranty is the core of the problem. A leak could affect any of the six adjacent units that are part of Calloni's section of the complex, she said.
"It could be more than fixing a leak in the roof," she said. "Water infiltration could lead to other damage and termite infestation. It could spread beyond just this unit, in terms of the damage that it caused."
Jeff Mikulina, director of the Sierra Club, Hawai'i Chapter, called the association's decision "troubling." He wants to know why anyone would fight something that has been proven to be good for the environment.
"I think it strikes most people as being just wrong," he said. "But we are concerned about the big picture. We'd hate for this to turn into something that prevents people from installing solar panels."
He said the company that installed the solar system provides a warranty.
Calloni isn't sure what he will do now. The company that installed the system Alternate Energy said it would cover the costs brought on by the board's decision.
"Overall, I just think it's kind of frustrating," he said.
Reach Mike Gordon at email@example.com or 525-8012.