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A little harder to accomplish in historic districts.

While researching a story on the D.C. solar industry, I learned something somewhat dismaying: In any one of D.C.’s 46 historic districts, if you want to put a solar panel on your roof, it cannot be visible from the street. So, if you have a nice south-facing roof exposure that fronts onto the street, you’re pretty much out of luck as far as solar is concerned. In particular, this affects areas like Georgetown, Capitol Hill, and Cleveland Park, which also have the most disposable income to spend on things like solar energy systems.

Historic preservationists are eager to prove that preservation doesn’t necessarily retard development, that it raises property values, that it can be a tool for neighborhood revitalization. All of those things are true. But they’d be more true if we could make an exception for a forward-thinking energy source that only has the shortcoming of not looking like it would have fit into a 19th-century tableau. Solar panels, after all, aren’t exactly the same thing as inappropriate dormers or other architectural elements out of keeping with the historic nature of a neighborhood. They’re tools to move us towards the vital goal of more sustainable energy generation, and historic districts shouldn’t be one more thing in the way.

Photo via flickr user bathroom improvement.

P.S. Oh yeah, I’m writing a story about the solar industry in D.C.! Especially startups. Plus ongoing problems with Pepco. Since this has worked before, if you’ve got particular knowledge or insight on the subject, do drop me a note: ldepillis@washingtoncitypaper.com.