Solar Homes

The Next Step for Clean Energy

A new report that documents the benefits of adopting California’s rooftop solar requirement in all 50 states.


Roschetzky Photography via

Installing solar panels on all new homes is a common-sense step that would create a wave of clean, renewable energy, reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, cut air pollution, save consumers money and help to create a more resilient electric grid.

Click on your state to find out how much solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity could be added on new homes from 2020 to 2045—and how much that would reduce carbon emission. Click the “INFO” button in the upper-right corner to get more details. Use the navigation in the footer to see how to use the map and to see a key for the color coding of the map. Zoom out or scroll to the West and/or North to see the Hawaii and Alaska.

Installing solar panels on all new homes could:

  • Add as much solar energy capacity as the entire U.S. currently has installed in just six years, from 2020 to 2026.
  • Result in 203 GW of new residential solar PV capacity by 2045—3.5 times the 58 GW of solar capacity currently installed in the entire U.S.
  • Cut over 9 percent of current annual U.S. CO2 emissions from electricity generation by 2045.

Installing solar panels on all new homes would transform the market and lower costs by leading to:

  • New partnerships between home builders and solar companies;
  • Reduced “soft costs” such as marketing and permitting, which make up nearly two-thirds of solar energy’s overall cost;
  • Technological developments; and
  • Market maturation, where even small solar installation companies could acquire solar energy system components at wholesale prices.
  • A 2018 National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study found that these advances could collectively reduce the price of solar energy systems by 59 percent.

Rooftop solar panels atop homes in Boulder, CO. (Dennis Schroeder via National Renewable Energy Laboratory, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

Distributed solar energy benefits the climate, consumers, public health and the electric grid

  • Solar energy reduces dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, which the U.S. must cut by at least 80 percent by 2050 in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. 
  • By offsetting the burning of coal and gas for electricity, solar panels improve air quality in our communities. From 2007 to 2015, wind and solar energy were estimated to prevent 3,000 to 12,700 premature deaths in the U.S. by improving air quality.
  • Residential solar energy saves consumers money. In states with pro-solar policies, homeowners with solar panels can save between $10,000 to $30,000 over a 20-year period. By reducing demand on the electric grid and the need for new infrastructure, residential solar energy can also help lower electric bills for all utility customers.
  • Distributed solar energy makes the electric grid more resilient. When coupled with energy storage, distributed solar energy can keep the power on during outages, minimizing impacts for those affected by disasters, especially when used in hospitals, fire stations and other first responder facilities.

California’s solar homes policy leads the way

Starting at the beginning of 2020, the state of California now requires new single-family homes and multi-family homes up to three stories to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

This requirement is part of the California’s 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards. On December 5, 2018 the California Building Standards Commission will meet to review the standards. The current version of the new standards, which also ramp up energy efficiency requirements for buildings, are expected to save the average homeowner around $19,000 over 30 years—double what the standards are expected to add to the cost of a new home. From 2020 to 2023, the standards are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 115,000 cars off the road.

Installing solar PV panels on a home in the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. (Roland Balik, U.S. Air Force)

To take advantage of the many benefits of residential solar energy, state and local governments across the country should require all new homes to install solar PV systems. To support this policy and maximize its benefits, governments should also:

  • Set strong energy efficiency standards for homes. By eliminating energy waste through high-efficiency electric appliances and lighting, and ensuring the efficiency of attics, walls, windows and doors, rooftop solar panels can meet a larger share of home energy needs at lower cost. 
  • Accelerate home electrification and adoption of electric vehicles. Transitioning home heating, hot water systems and vehicles to electricity can maximize the potential of solar energy.
  • Support energy storage. Residential batteries allow homeowners to store excess solar energy for later use, saving homeowners money and helping the electric grid to operate more smoothly.