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Everything You Need To Know About The Solar Mandate in California

The Solar Mandate for Sunny California

California has always had the benefit of plenty of sunshine, which makes it an ideal place for implementing solar power. But California has become the leader in solar, generating the most electricity from this source. In fact, California has four times the useable capacity of any other state in the nation. But was this the only reason California became solar-centric? The answer is a little more complicated than that.

The History Behind the California Solar Mandate California’s Building Standards Commission approved a new piece of legislation in 2018 that would require solar panels on all residential buildings that were less than three stories tall. This new building code officially went into effect on January 1, 2020, and applies to all single and multi-family homes being built. California's Governor, Gavin Newsom officially signed Assembly Bill 178 (AB-178). This new bill details the solar mandates and the photovoltaic (PV) requirements. While the benefits from solar panels have been proven, a long-term view is necessary. Newsom pointed out that homeowners could save $15,000 in energy costs over 30 years, so it's a long game. California's residential solar plan is designed to eliminate the state's dependence on fossil fuels while at the same time stabilizing the electric grid and creating a sustainable and reliable energy source for its residents.

Building Size and Solar Panel Requirements Solar panels are only capable of generating so much electricity, so builders have to know how many panels to install for the size of the construction project. A general estimate can be achieved by assuming about 2 watts of solar power per square foot of building space. Then it just becomes an exercise in multiplication, a 2,000 square foot home would require 4,000 watts of solar power. The formula serves as a good starting point because building and home configurations, power usage, number of people using electricity, etc. all need to be factored into the equation. What this Means for Homeowners For those looking to build new homes in the state of California, the California solar mandate needs to be taken into consideration as it will add cost to the building of a home. For a new single-family home build the solar panel addition will add about $8,400 to the overall cost of the structure. Luckily homeowners don't have to absorb these costs all at once and it is included in the overall mortgage, which means paying an additional $40 some dollars per month. The other advantage is that this sunken cost also pays the homeowner back by saving about $80 per month in electricity costs, so the homeowner will more than break even over time. Another point to remember is that the solar mandate includes any additional dwelling units on the homeowner's property. So all those carriage houses and mother-in-law dwellings meet the criteria for the addition of solar panels. Again homeowners will have to calculate the costs associated with the solar panels in the overall construction budget.

Other Options The goal of the solar legislation is to reduce the overall consumption of electricity by California residents. But solar panels aren't the only way to achieve this, there are other natural energy sources that can be utilized. One such measure is having solar batteries installed along with the solar panels. How this works is the solar panels charge the batteries, which in turn can supply power when needed. This can be done at night or during a natural disaster to keep homes powered without relying on the electrical grid. This also ensures that homeowners get the most possible out of their solar systems. Another way to reduce the sheer amount of solar panels that need to be installed, and therefore the cost is to practice some other green alternatives. In the initial construction green building materials can be used that can not only reduce the overall building impact but can make a house more energy efficient. Inside the home, energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems can also reduce the amount of power consumption. The adoption of thermal solar energy can also decrease the overall consumption footprint of the home. These ideas can help in the initial installation costs of solar panel installation and also save the homeowner money down the road. Possible Exemptions Does everyone have to comply with the solar mandate or are there exceptions to the rule? California does allow for exemptions in the following areas:

  • Properties and Buildings Damaged by Catastrophe

  • Communities that can't have individual solar installs but can create a community solar garden

  • Those in areas where the sun isn't constant can adopt other green options

  • Temporary Structures and Remote Job Sites

  • Correctional Facilities

While none of these structures are specifically covered in the mandate, green building features and alternative energy sources are still being encouraged and used during the construction phases. What if it's Just Too Expensive If homeowners aren't able to cover the costs of the solar panels during new home construction there are companies that offer leases on solar panels. This option helps the homeowners to avoid upfront costs and still be able to save on their overall electric bills. Of course, as time goes on solar panels will most likely just be another part of the overall package when it comes to new home builds.

The Problem with Buying The Solar Mandate

The issue facing future homeowners in California is that the solar requirements for new houses may not meet their energy needs and homeowners are to going to end up with a large 'true-up bill' every year to cover the energy they used but did not produce. If you are a new homeowner in California or are looking into buying a new home in California contact us. We can help you determine if you need more solar on your house to meet your needs.


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