California to become the first US state to require solar panels on new homes
Lacy Cooke / inhabitat / 8 May
California is taking a huge step forward in clean energy, as the state is expected to require solar panels on just about all new homes, The Orange County Register reported. The California Energy Commission is slated to vote this Wednesday on new standards mandating almost all new houses be equipped with solar panels, beginning in 2020, and it’s expected they’ll approve the move.
The Golden State “is about to take a quantum leap in energy standards,” according to California Building Industry Association technical director Bob Raymer. If approved, the solar mandate would cover all houses, apartments, and condominiums as high as three stories obtaining building permits after January 1, 2020, according to The Orange County Register. There could be alternatives or exceptions allowed for structures shaded by other buildings or trees, or if a roof is too small to allow for solar panels. The new provisions would offer compliance credits for builders who install batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall, allowing them to cut the size of solar systems. Homes won’t need to reach true net zero status under these standards, according to The Orange County Register.
Compared against a 2006 code, these new standards would add around $25,000 to $30,000 to construction costs, according to Meritage Homes‘ vice president of environmental affairs C.R. Herro speaking to The Orange County Register. $14,000 to $16,000 of that would go to solar; $10,000 to $15,000 would go to increased insulation and appliances, windows, heating, and lighting that is more efficient.
Herro said the $25,000 to $30,000 would lead to $50,000 to $60,000 in reduced operating costs during the home solar power system’s 25-year lifespan.
Homebuilder and former Orange County Building Industry Association president Bill Watt told The Orange County Register the added costs could mean home prices are too high for many buyers, saying, “We’re not building enough housing already. Why not just pause for a little while, focus on the affordability and housing issues, then circle back?”
Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips told The Orange County Register, “The technology is developing so fast, we think the timeline was a bit slow.”
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