California Energy Commission Approves New Building Code Requiring Solar Panels on Certain Buildings

On May 9, the California Energy Commission held a hearing to discuss proposed changes to the building code that would go into effect January 1, 2020. At the end of the hearing, the Commission voted unanimously to approve the changes, including one that makes history in the country. One of the proposed changes relates to the requirement to install solar panels on certain properties.

Section 110.10 regulates mandatory requirements for solar ready buildings. According to the code, single family residences, low-rise multifamily dwellings, hotel/motel occupancies and high-rise multifamily buildings of ten stories or fewer, and nonresidential buildings with three habitable floors or fewer will have to comply with the provisions of the code for the installation of solar panels. The rules would mean that all new construction fitting within the listed categories, including new single family homes would have to have solar panels installed during the building process. The code goes on to discuss the positioning of solar panels based on the solar zone area as well as compliance with other code provisions. For instance, single family homes should install solar on the roof or overhang of the building and be no less than 250 square feet. The other types of buildings should have a solar area zone of no less than 15% of the total roof area excluding any skylights. The code contains multiple exceptions to the requirements if a building has other solar systems installed or if there is shade.

It is anticipated that the new rules would add an additional $9,500 to the construction cost of each new home. However, the Energy Commission anticipates that these extra costs would come out to around $40/month extra on a mortgage, while the potential electrical savings could be $80/month. Therefore, buyers would see savings by having solar ready homes.

The changes now need to go before the California Building Standards Commission for approval.

Further Reading:

James Rainey, California becomes first state to require solar panels on new homes, NBC News, May 9, 2018.

Tony Bizjak, Solar panels could be required on all new California homes. Here’s what it would cost, Sacramento Bee, May 8, 2018.


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