California to require rooftop solar for most new homes

10 May, 2018, 14:28 | Author: Kathy Ellis
  • SunWork Renewable Energy Projects a nonprofit solar installation company trains volunteers to install solar panels on homes in the South Bay Area. Sun Work recently completed an installation on a Sunnyvale home in February

A report commissioned by the state found that the requirement will have an average upfront cost of $9,365.

The commission also adopted new standards that are expected to increase the energy efficiency of attics, walls, insulation and windows.

While the new requirements aim to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions - one of the state's greatest challenges - they may worsen another problem in the short-term: the high cost of housing.

The solar panel mandate is estimated to apply to a 2020 inventory of about 100,000 new single-family homes and 48,000 multi-family homes in California.

"This is an undeniably historic decision for the state and the USA", said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade association with about 1,000 member companies.

The measure now moves toward final approval later this year by the state's Building Standards Commission.

Companies like KB Homes that already offer solar systems in their new homes are the best positioned to take on the new requirements.

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They calculate that a 30-year mortgage would face an increase of about $40 in average monthly payments, but residents would save $80 dollars on heating, cooling and lighting bills every month. Beck, the energy commission spokeswoman, said the Building Standards Commission traditionally accepts energy commission recommendations without change. In the event a building isn't suitable for a rooftop array, the standards require homes have access to community solar or offset energy usage through additional efficiency gains.

The vote was a major win for the solar installation industry, which already counts California as its biggest market.

Environmentalists are celebrating the new building standards, and not just because of the solar panel mandate. With this action, California becomes the first state in America to mandate solar panels as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Some critics, though, question the wisdom of the transition to solar at a time when California is struggling with a dire housing crisis and skyrocketing housing costs.

Officials in St. Petersburg, Florida, made a similar argument when they were mulling their own solar mandate a year ago, with City Councilman Kevin Nurse telling Reason, "You can create a system that provides local jobs, reduces fossil fuel use and pollution, and reduces the cost of owning a home".

In fact, the state itself generates so much solar and wind power that it must sometimes halt production at some facilities or give the electricity away to other states to avoid overloading the electric grid.

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