Tooele man says city's plans will hamper his effort to go ‘green'

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TOOELE -- A Tooele man who built a solar panel array in his backyard says a city-approved project is threatening his plans for green, renewable energy. He thinks a planned apartment complex is going to block direct sunlight to his panels and prevent him from powering his home.

Dennis Tracey says he thought he was doing the right thing. "It's turned into a total fiasco, a total fiasco. I never thought I would ever have any problems like this," he said.

The problem has to do with a solar panel covering he made in his backyard. He built it a year ago, after constantly hearing how America needs to become more energy independent.

The panels cost him $32,000 of his retirement money. Now, Tracey is hearing Tooele approved a three-story apartment complex right behind his house, which he believes will block the needed direct sunlight to his panels.

"What that means to me is I won't hit optimal performance," Tracey said.

Roger Baker, Tooele's city attorney, says the city doesn't believe that's the case. He says measurements were done between the planned apartments and Tracey's home, and the angles don't look like they'll be a problem.

"We don't believe there will be a severe impact that will prevent him from recovering the benefit of these solar panels," he said.

Besides, Baker says, the land was zoned for apartments in 1997. Tracey's home and neighborhood were built just a few years ago.

"Here, what we have is a situation where we're trying to balance the respective property rights of different property owners," Baker said.

For Tracey, he just wants a peaceful retirement, one that included setting an example for others. "I really thought I was doing the right thing by doing the building," he said.

Tooele says they might have to look into creating ordinances in the future to mitigate these issues.

Tracey says he's also trying to get permission from Rocky Mountain Power to connect his panels to his home, then onto the electric grid. The entire process isn't as easy as he thought it was going to be.


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