Maybe it’s the rampant wildfires, droughts, and floods. Maybe it’s the feeling you get while driving past those iconic wind farms on the highways leading out to the desert. Or maybe it’s all those tech geeks trying to solve the world’s problems in Silicon Valley. Whatever it is, California always seems to be one step ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing climate issues. Now, California has upped its game even more with a requirement that all new homes in the state must be equipped for solar energy.
California is already a nationwide leader in solar capacity, with at least 704 solar power plants in operation and an installed capacity of around 10.830 megawatts in the state. However, solar energy still only makes up about 11.79% of the total electricity production in California, so there’s still much work to be done.
California was one of the earliest adopters of the 100% renewable energy goal in America, dating back to when Governor Jerry Brown signed the state’s zero-emission energy bill in September 2018. The statewide goal is 2045, but it will take many small steps and incremental victories between now and then to accomplish it. One of these steps involves becoming the first state to make solar power a mainstream option and require home builders to either equip individual homes with panels or create a system of shared solar power to serve a group of homes.
With this new solar requirement, effective in 2020, home buyers will face an additional estimated $10,000 when building a new home. On the surface, this may seem counterproductive in a state that is already facing one of the worst affordable housing crises in America. However, a $40 per month increase (based on a 30-year mortgage) gets overshadowed by an average savings of about $80 every month for monthly heat, A/C, and electricity bills. With summer temperatures getting more brutal every year, the new requirement also serves as a way for residents on fixed incomes to prepare for costs without the risk of utility increases. Furthermore, more solar powered homes means more resiliency with the unpredictable and often devastating weather conditions that have picked up with alarming frequency.
Yet as with any new law, there are exceptions, such as the exception for new homes that are mostly shaded from the sun. The requirement applies to both single-family homes and multi-family units up to three stories tall, and there will also be incentives offered to residents who add high-capacity batteries to their homes to store energy collected by the panels. This is certainly something that would have come in handy after the devastating Camp Fire that left so many people in Butte County without power.
Whatever California does, other U.S. states tend to follow in time. But for now, this West Coast leader is one step closer to its renewable energy goal and a little more prepared for extreme weather events that Californians are beginning to accept as the new normal.