California Is Now Requiring Solar Panels on All New Homes: What It Means for Homeowners

California has officially become the first state to require solar panels on all new home and multi-family residences of three stories or fewer, as well as all major renovations. Buildings in highly shaded areas may be exempt.  Commercial construction will follow by 2030.

Currently, California is adding approximately 113,000 housing units every year, and they keep on adding more as we speak. Around 15 percent of these units are built with solar.  So, it seems this is a big boost to the residential solar industry.

The new provisions added to the state’s building code also include a boost of the standards for air conditioning, insulation, and water heaters, among other things. In other words, the houses are expected to produce as much energy as they consume by 2020.

Rooftop solar can be an extremely expensive way to move towards renewable energy than wind and larger solar installations. Cheaper alternatives aren’t hard to find. California is already on its way to reach 50 renewable energy, so mandating an expensive form of renewables will raise the price to hit the goal.

After the mandate effect was analyzed, they found out it’ll cost anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 but homeowners could save twice that much over their lifetime through lower energy bills. The new mandate has extensive support from home builders, politicians, and solar advocates. The costs seem to focus more on homeowners and builders than the general public. But some are wondering whether some other bill would have done a better job. The questions will always be there and it’s okay to question no matter what type of policy is passed.  

This may not be the best policy, but some believe it’s a good one to start with since it will shift more power into consumer hands, reduce residential solar costs and encourage technological advancement. The costs of building solar into new construction is much less since there are no interconnection applications, there is an electrician on-site, and sales commissions as well as permitting costs are much lower. Also, solar panels are cheaper when purchased in bulk. All these improvements will make rooftop solar more attractive in other states even if it’s not required. Homeowners are expected to save as much as $80 a month on their utility bills.  

After analyzing the pros and cons of rooftop solar, it’s difficult to come up with a solid conclusion other than more solar everywhere is not always better. It’s not good to get hung up on a specific technology to reduce carbon emissions, but rather assessing the needs against the different technologies available to meet them.  

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