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Solar Restrictions - New Mexico

47-3-1. Short title.  

Sections 47-3-1 through 47-3-5 NMSA 1978 may be cited as the "Solar Rights Act".

History: 1953 Comp., § 70-8-1, enacted by Laws 1977, ch. 169, § 1; 2007, ch. 232, § 2

47-3-2. Declaration and findings.

The legislature declares that the state of New Mexico recognizes that economic benefits can be derived for the people of the state from the use of solar energy. Operations, research, experimentation and development in the field of solar energy use shall therefore be encouraged. While recognizing the value of research and development of solar energy use techniques and devices by governmental agencies, the legislature finds and declares that the actual construction and use of solar devices, whether at public or private expense, is properly a commercial activity which the law should encourage to be carried out, whenever practicable, by private enterprise.

History: 1953 Comp., § 70-8-2, enacted by Laws 1977, ch. 169, § 2.

47-3-3. Definitions.  

As used in the Solar Rights Act:

A.   "solar collector" means a device, substance or element, or a combination of devices, substances or elements, that relies upon sunshine as an energy source and that is capable of collecting not less than twenty-five thousand British thermal units on a clear winter solstice day or that is used for the conveyance of light to the interior of a building.  The term also includes any device, substance or element that collects solar energy for use in:

(1)   the heating or cooling of a structure or building;

(2)   the heating or pumping of water; 

(3)   industrial, commercial or agricultural processes; or

(4)   the generation of electricity. A solar collector may be used for purposes in addition to the collection of solar energy.  These uses include, but are not limited to, serving as a structural member or part of a roof of a building or structure and serving as a window or wall; and 

B.   "solar right" means a right to an unobstructed line-of-sight path from a solar collector to the sun, which permits radiation from the sun to impinge directly on the solar collector.

History: 1953 Comp., § 70-8-3, enacted by Laws 1977, ch. 169, § 3; 2007, ch. 232, § 3.

47-3-4. Declaration of solar rights.  

A.   The legislature declares that the right to use the natural resource of solar energy is a property right, the exercise of which is to be encouraged and regulated by the laws of this state. Such property right shall be known as a solar right.   

B.   The following concepts shall be applicable to the regulation of disputes over the use of solar energy where practicable:   

(1)   "beneficial use." Beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure and the limit of the solar right, except as otherwise provided by written contract. If the amount of solar energy which a solar collector user can beneficially use varies with the season of the year, then the extent of the solar right shall vary likewise;   

(2)   "prior appropriation." In disputes involving solar rights, priority in time shall have the better right except that the state and its political subdivisions may legislate, or ordain that a solar collector user has a solar right even though a structure or building located on neighborhood property blocks the sunshine from the proposed solar collector site. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to diminish in any way the right of eminent domain of the state or any of its political subdivisions or any other entity that currently has such a right; and   

(3)   "transferability." Solar rights shall be freely transferable within the bounds of such regulation as the legislature may impose. The transfer of a solar right shall be recorded in accordance with Chapter 14, Article 9 NMSA 1978.   

C.   Unless a singular overriding state concerns occur which significantly affect the health and welfare of the citizens of this state, permit systems for the use and application of solar energy shall reside with county and municipal zoning authorities.   

  History: 1953 Comp., § 70-8-4, enacted by Laws 1977, ch. 169, § 4. 

47-3-5. Prior rights unaffected.  

Nothing in the Solar Rights Act shall be construed to alter, amend, deny, impair or modify any solar right, lease, easement or contract right which has vested prior to the effective date of the Solar Rights Act.   

  History: 1953 Comp., § 70-8-5, enacted by Laws 1977, ch. 169, § 5.