Al Gore has been under attack ever since the release of his documentary An Inconvenient Truth for allegedly not practicing what he preaches. Most notably, his frequent flying and lavish energy-guzzling home were revealed to be causing the environment a whole lot of damage.
But, Gore has had some vindication lately. It seems that zoning laws have prevented the former presidential candidate (and some suspect potential candidate for 2008 despite his denials) from installing solar panels on his roof.
Gore lives in the upscale neighborhood of Belle Meade (the fifth richest community in the US) in Tennessee, in a multimillion dollar home. Critics pointed out that the house’s energy consumption was excessive and did not appear to be supplemented by any renewable sources, strangely enough for an environmental activist.
Now, Gore claims he had embarked on an ambitious renovation of the house but his contractors ran into a legal barrier last summer when they sought to apply for a permit to install solar panels on the roof.
Terry Franklin, Belle Meade’s building officer, said the town only allows power generating equipment to be placed on the ground level.
“Solar panels are generators,” Franklin said. “We told them they couldn’t do it. They wanted to try anyway, but we convinced them it was something the board wouldn’t allow.”
Belle Meade developed the zoning rules because many of its homes have backup electric generators. The area has several tall trees and residents have discouraged Nashville Electric Service crews from pruning those near power lines. Power outages from falling branches have forced several residents to purchase backup generators.
Gore’s contractors had argued that silent solar panels should not be equated with noisy gas- or diesel-powered generators, but they ultimately agreed not to press the issue while the city considered changes to the code.
Now, however, Gore should be able to have his panels installed at last if he so wishes. New rules introduced on April 1 now allow homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs. But there’s a caveat: “Solar panels may be installed upon the roof of a building so long as they are not visible from the street or from any adjoining property,” according to the ordinance.
Gore’s roof does have flat areas where the panels could be placed, Franklin said.
The builders at Gore’s home should any minute now be making the application for solar panels
“We just sort of had to wait until they caught up with things,” said Steve Rick, Gore’s architect. “I didn’t think it was worth fighting because we knew the change was coming.”
It was also reveled recently that Gore’s home is, in fact, offset through green energy credits and a strong push for efficient lighting and appliances. The evidence provided by the people who criticized Gore for using too much electricity in the home has also been disputed it seems the conservative group doesn’t actually believe in global warming.
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