California set to mandate rooftop solar on all new homes

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California Energy Commission looking likely to approve move to rooftop solar compulsory on all new homes, condos, and apartments from 2020.

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California may soon be making renewable energy history again, with reports circulating that the California Energy Commission will approve a move to make it compulsory to build solar panels on all new homes, condos, and apartment buildings from 2020 onwards.

The North American “Golden State” is already a leading proponent of renewable energy, not just in the United States, but around the world. California is, theoretically, the world’s 5thlargest economy – recently surpassing the United Kingdom, with an economy of $2.7 trillion.

Unsurprisingly, therefore – considering the state’s renewable energy targets of 33% by 2020 and 50% by 2030 – California also ranks as a leading renewable energy giant, with 27,800 MW worth of renewable energy capacity (as of 31 October, 2017).

Specifically, California has 16,200 MW worth of solar installed, and 5,600 MW worth of wind energy – although, more recent figures suggest that even in the last few months of 2017 California was installing solar, as a report published earlier this year by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association put California’s total levelof solar at 19,818 MW.

To put that into global terms, California is not doing too badly. China finished 2017 with 130 GW worth of solar, Japan has 48.6 GW, and the United States (including California) has 41.1 GW.

At what point, however, does California overtake the rest of the United States? According to reports circulating about a California Energy Commission (CEC) meeting taking place on Tuesday, California’s solar levels might get a swift kick in the rear.

Specifically, reports are suggesting that the CEC will vote Tuesday on approving its 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards which, among other things, includes a provision requiring that all new residential buildings be built with solar PV installations.

More than that, however, the Standardsoutline a variety of energy efficient measures pertaining to air conditioning, water heaters, glass, and more.

But obviously, the new requirement for solar PV installations is making all the headlines. According to the text of the guidelines, “All low-rise residential buildings shall have a photovoltaic (PV) system meeting the minimum qualification requirements as specified in Joint Appendix JA11, with annual electrical output equal to or greater than the dwelling’s annual electrical usage as determined by Equation 150.1-C.”

Some of that is very text-specific, but the ultimate goal is to ensure that every new house – with very few exceptions – are built with solar PV installations that account for some or all of the dwellings electricity consumption.

This will be a ground-breaking decision, making it the first state in the country to require solar PV on all new residential buildings.

“California is about to take a quantum leap in energy standards,” said Bob Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association, speaking to The Mercury News. “No other state in the nation mandates solar, and we are about to take that leap.”

The move won’t require homes to reach net-zero carbon status, but the move will provide “compliance credits” to those who install battery storage.

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.

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12 Comments
  1. Alastair Leith 4 months ago

    I do hope this doesn’t mean trees on private properties and street trees start being removed/poisoned to get better returns of compulsory solarPV installations. Other than that a sensible policy move.

    • Joe 4 months ago

      The same idea should be happening here in Australia. Go out into the new housing estates of South West Sydney, not a tree to be seen, very little solar upstairs BUT they all have the air con to survive the summer heat-a-thons.

      • Alastair Leith 4 months ago

        Same in any capital city in Australia. Greens (WA) have a street tree policy to cool the bituminous/concrete surfaces (and hence local air temp in summer) and provide habitat and corridor. But i’ve often wondered if that will impact on PV. Currently the trend is for new housing estates to not even have room to plant a tree on the property, kind of eliminates the issue in the most cynical way possible doesn’t it?

        • Joe 4 months ago

          Yep, spot on. I live in Sydney and NSW Premier Gladys bangs on about greening the joint and planting the trees while at the same time she knocks down all the big mature trees in the name of “urban progress”. My sister has just built a home near Campbelltown, 400 sq mtrs is approx. the block sizes out there and not a tree in sight with the black rooves and the black bitumen all around, it’s an urban planning disaster.

      • Hettie 4 months ago

        Why can’t all those horrible boxes be conjoined. Terrace houses.
        The narrow side spaces are not usable, and we’ll insulated soundproofed common walls would greatly reduce heat gain and loss. Streets would need to run east/west to allow for some northern aspect, but lightwells could also provide small courtyards. The better quality Victorian terrace houses could give valuable lessons here.

    • Miles Harding 4 months ago

      We already have a solution for that: It’s called ‘infill’.

      The strategy being to build and pave every square metre of private land in the suburbs. There’s no place for a tree in this future.

      We have started reading David Holmgren’s new book “retrosuburbia”, which achieves greater housing density while also increasing resillience and quality of life. Its prescription is literally the opposite of that being conducted in the suburbs.

  2. Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 4 months ago

    Net Zero FTW

  3. George Darroch 4 months ago

    “annual electrical output equal to or greater than the dwelling’s annual electrical usage as determined by Equation 150.1-C.”

    That’s the kicker. Few houses with rooftop solar in Australia would meet their entire equivalent energy use throughout the year from solar. This would mean oversizing systems relative to their benefits for many people, and explains much of the estimated $25k cost (their less competitive panel and installation market explains the rest).

    • MaxG 4 months ago

      Thanks… was wondering about this exorbitant cost as well…

      • Hettie 4 months ago

        Apparently there is scads of red tape in the US that adds a lot to the costs

    • Hettie 4 months ago

      The problem is that despite efforts to mandate energy efficiency, the results are pathetic. While ever appropriate orientation is left off the list of requirements, new houses will be built all wrong.
      But when a house is appropriately designed, sited and constructed, and the occupants are taught how to “drive” it, rooftop solar can indeed meet all requirements.
      Probably not for “McMansions,” but they are not appropriately designed.
      The not so big, but big enough house, with some space that can be closed off for efficient heating and cooling, uses far less power than one with huge double height spaces .
      I’ve said all this so often it’s boring.
      User behaviour is critical to lowering consumption, but with good occupants in a good house, solar power could well be sufficient.
      Perhaps a gable roof with the Ridge running north/south, so the full roof, not just half, is available. It seems that a half east, half west setup gives as much as an all north array. With double the number of panels, the output would be way more.
      I do go on, don’t I. Time to stop.

  4. Treble Sketch 4 months ago

    Mandating roof top solar.
    The concept of solar roof tiles may be proved to be popular to bring the price down while also keeping the aesthetic look of the house. But I do hope to see companies other than Tesla to release solar roof tiles!

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