The solar energy mandate to be put into effect on January 1st of 2020 was approved last year by the California Building Standards Commission. This mandate which requires all new homes three stories or less to have solar panels sets a precedent in the U.S. In this post we are going to go over the specifics on the mandate.
According to the solar panel mandate, solar photovoltaic systems in homes must be big enough to cover the annual net energy usage in kilowatt-hours. For the average homeowner in the state this means that the system must be from around 2.7 to 5.7 kilowatts. Battery storage and heat pump water heaters are also encouraged but not required.
Flexibility Allowed in the Mandate
In order to make it more feasible there is some leeway given that gives homebuilders some flexibility in how the solar energy systems are deployed. One of the allowable options is to let the builders construct community solar. Community solar dispenses electricity to multiple homes as opposed to individual rooftop solar panels. This requires the approval of the California Energy Commission as well as coordinating the project with their local utility company.
Utilizing community solar is more cost effective for contractors but is probably not in the best interests of the individual homeowner at this time. California energy regulations prevent net metering on community solar. This can result in higher energy bills when compared rooftop solar on an individual’s home.
Another allowance in the new building code permits homeowners to be exempt from compliance with the mandate if the utility bill would be higher with solar. It also allows an exemption if the panels would not generate enough power due to the location or other issues.
Financing and Deployment Options for Solar Systems
Homebuilders are given some flexibility in the installation of the solar panels for new homes. The projects do not have to be all inclusive, meaning they can subcontract the solar portion to a company that specializes in solar installation. The total can still be calculated into final price of the home or kept separate by paying cash, getting a separate loan, or a lease.
Solar Energy System Cost Estimates
The estimated cost of installing rooftop solar panels will be from around $8,000-$18,000 depending on the size of the install and the location of the home. This does not take the solar incentives into account that are currently available in California.
The estimated cost includes:
- solar PV modules
- structural balance of the system
- electrical balance of the system,
- supply chain costs
- sales tax
- install labor
- customer acquisition
- general and administrative overhead
- net profit to the installer.
If financed into the overall price of the home the average increase would be about $40 per month.
There are no major changes in the building of new homes with the exception of adding the solar energy system. The state has added some new green homebuilding standards however, to improve the comfort and energy efficiency of the home. Builders must install thicker insulation in walls and attics, utilize energy efficient doors and windows, and install improved ventilation systems, all of which will help lower energy costs.
Through the mandate homeowners are able to access data on how well their system is performing through a mobile app or on a website. This will allow the monitoring and diagnosing of any issues so that adjustments can be made for optimal performance. The responsibility for maintenance depends on how the system is financed. If the homeowner purchases the system they will be responsible unless their builder included maintenance in the overall cost. Leasing the system places the responsibility upon the leasing company.
The mandate is not only intended to help the state reach its goal of 100% renewable energy, but also to save homeowners money on their utility bills over the long term. Estimates from the California Energy Commission show average savings of nearly $20,000 over 30 years and a savings of around $80 per month on electric, cooling, and heating costs.
ClearWorld is working with numerous California cities to provide Solar LED Street Lighting for their communities.