California set to mandate solar panels on many new homes
Solar panels on many new homes soon could become as common as doors and windows.
California’s Energy Commission is due to vote this week on new energy standards that would require virtually all new homes to be constructed with solar panels from 2020. If approved, the state would be the first in the country to make panels mandatory.
Around 20 percent of single-family homes are constructed with solar capacity built in, according to the California Building Industry Association. The new requirement would apply to all homes standing taller than three stories.
San Francisco began Jan. 1 requiring solar panels on all buildings that are 10 stories or smaller.
The push for a solar panel requirement dates back more than a decade to when the energy commission established a goal of improving the efficiency of homebuilding so that “newly constructed buildings can be net zero energy by 2020 for residences and by 2030 for commercial buildings.”
Net zero facilities are those that produce as much energy as they use.
The new mandate would not require homes to be net zero, as state officials stated this goal is not yet cost-effective.
CR Herro, vice president of environmental affairs at real estate development company Meritage Homes, said the new energy standard would add up to $30,000 to the cost of home construction. However, he noted that over the 25-year lifespan of the home’s solar system, the owner’s reduced operating costs would save them up to $60,000.
Bill Watt, a homebuilder and design consultant, told the Orange County Register that those added costs – on top of other building mandates like fire sprinklers – are pushing home prices further out of reach for many buyers.
The proposed manadate is considered welcome news by environmental groups. Pierre Delforge, energy efficiency program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the paper that the move is “another important step towards the environmentally-friendly, healthy and affordable home of the future.”
A large proportion of California’s power supply already is generated by renewable methods, according to California Independent System Operator.