Mandatory solar panels possible for new Californian homes?

Steve Phelps
May 9, 2018

Now that California has decided to make solar modules a requirement for new structures to be built after 2020, the next goal could be more mandates to gradually approach net-zero standards.

The California Energy Commission is expected to vote on the proposal Wednesday. 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.

The new construction rules are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but at least in the short run, they will inevitably exacerbate California's notoriously high housing costs and could create yet more barriers to residents struggling to buy homes.

"Going to 100 percent is a really big, big jump", Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) told the Times.

The commission added that the solar panels could save $80 a month in electricity.

"We would prefer that the standards be held out another three to six years", said California Building Industry Association's senior engineer, Bob Raymer. "No other state in the nation mandates solar, and we are about to take that leap".

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Builders that install batteries such as the Tesla Powerwall receive compliance credits that allow them to reduce the size at a later day of their solar system.

In addition to the solar rule, California's plan is to also encourage all-electric homes so as to cut natural gas demand, the OCRegister said.

"Solar accounts for about $14,000 to $16,000 of that cost, with increased insulation and more efficient windows, appliances, lighting and heating accounting for another $10,000 to $15,000", the Orange County Register notes.

While net-zero remains an admirable goal, getting there is not yet cost-effective, state officials and experts said.

"It's kind of indicative of what California does first is that we look at these kind of ideas." says Balkar Gill with Nova West Solar.

At night when there's no solar power, people come home, turn on the lights, the TV and possibly the air conditioning and start pulling power from the grid, he said.

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