Will California soon require solar panels on all new buildings?

By Bret Fanshaw
Solar Program Coordinator

Last April, San Francisco became the first major US city to require solar panels on new buildings. Now, the man who drafted that ordinance wants to extend the requirement to the whole state of California.

That man is Scott Wiener, now a California State Senator for San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

In a recent Medium blog post announcing the introduction of his statewide legislation, Wiener says that now more than ever, California must be a climate leader. He writes, “Requiring solar on new rooftops will keep California on an aggressive path towards a clean energy future and continue our fight against climate change.”

 

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Environmental Command CC BY 2.0

He’s right — California’s climate plans are among the strongest in the country. Even before San Francisco’s decision, California state law already required that 15 percent of new rooftop space be “solar-ready.” His new mandate takes the extra step of requiring that solar panels be installed on buildings ten floors or less. In addition, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation strengthening California’s already-ambitious emissions reductions.

San Francisco joins smaller California cities, Lancaster and Sebastopol, as the only three municipalities in the country to have such a rule. So if any state can step out on this requirement, California would appear to be a good first bet.

Requiring all new buildings to have solar would have a major impact in curbing global warming pollution, and keep us on a path to 100 percent renewable energy. In San Francisco, it’s expected that the new mandate will add 50,000 solar panels and avert 26.3 million tons of carbon dioxideannually. That’s equivalent to removing emissions from 5,000 cars driven for a year.

Imagine the impact this policy would have in a state the size of California.

It would also benefit consumers and homeowners. A recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab supports the fairly overwhelming consensus that rooftop solar panels raise property values. Perhaps more importantly, requiring solar panels removes significant obstacles many face when going solar. It shifts the responsibility from the individual to the developer, avoiding the potential burden of finding an installer, finding the best price and acquiring the necessary financing.

This type of policy should be seen as another tool in policymakers’ arsenal to ramp up solar energy, and renewable energy as a whole. We’re excited to encourage towns, cities, and states to pursue this type of policy in the coming year. Stay tuned!