Builders in the Golden State soon will routinely include a pivotal piece to their home designs.
Solar panels now will be required on most new homes in California after the state’s Energy Commission approved new energy standards requiring the energy-efficient solutions be placed on roofs beginning in 2020. California becomes the nation’s first state to make panels mandatory.
The solar mandate will require new single-family homes and small multifamily buildings to abide by the new energy-efficient standards, with a few exceptions for buildings covered by shade.
Opponents warned that the move will drive up the cost of buying a house by almost $10,000. But companies with links to the solar industry applauded the mandate, saying increased demand for solar installs will spike business.
"This is massive," said Morten Lund, chair of an energy storage initiative at law firm Stoel Rives LLP. "Essentially, this could turn residential solar into an appliance, like a water heater. There has always been a certain inevitability about that outcome, but this is moving faster than most of us thought likely."
The U.S. residential solar market has increased more than six-fold to 10.4 gigawatts from five years ago.
California state adds about 80,000 new homes a year, and the California Solar & Storage Association estimates that about 15,000 include solar power. The Energy Commission says that the average home system uses 2.5 kilowatts to 4 kilowatts of panels, so the additional 65,000 new systems would add as much as 260 megawatts of annual demand in the state — about the size of one large solar farm.
The Energy Commission says new homeowners can expect to see their energy bills fall more than their mortgages will rise. The organization estimates the cost of solar will boost the price of an average house by $9,500. Mortgages will increase on average by $40 a month, but homeowners will save $80 on monthly utility bills, it says.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the 2017 median home price in California was $389,000, third-highest in the U.S.