California First State Mandating New Homes Have Solar Panels

Mae Love
May 8, 2018

The California Energy Commission is to vote today on new energy standards that would make it a must for new homes built in the state to have solar panels from 2020.

California's sunshine could soon change the state's real estate market. An assistant professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Santa Clara University believes that's because Californians are excited about renewable energy and the prospect of saving money on energy bills.

New thinking has made that goal obsolete, state officials say.

Some people clearly like the idea of generating their own power from solar energy, assuming they can afford the upfront costs.

The code applies to all new homes, apartment buildings and condos up to three stories high. Homes that are shaded by trees or other buildings will not be required to have panels installed as they will not be able to produce enough solar energy. However, it does provide "compliance credits" for homebuilders who install storage batteries like Tesla's Powerwall, letting them build smaller panel arrays knowing that excess energy will be available to use off-hours.

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Builders would prefer the state move slower in imposing the solar mandate, but most nonetheless should be prepared by mid-2020, said the Building Industry Association's Raymer. Solar accounts for about USD 14,000 to USD 16,000 of that cost, with increased insulation and more efficient windows, appliances, lighting, and heating accounting for another USD 10,000 to USD 15,000.

"We're not building enough housing already", Watt said.

Pierre Delforge, energy efficiency program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the proposed update "another important step toward the environmentally-friendly, healthy and affordable home of the future".

While this will definitely end up increasing construction costs - by as much as between $25,000 to $30,000, according to some reports - estimates that the solar installations could save owners between $50,000 and $60,000 over the life of the solar PV installation. Will the last person to leave California please turn off the lights?

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