California first in U.S. to require solar panels on new homes

May 9, 2018

It’s official. In California, new homes built in 2020 and beyond will be required to incorporate solar panels.

On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission approved new building standards effective as of January 2, 2020. A part of those standards aims to ensure more affordable housing in the long-term, by mandating that new single-family and low-rise residential buildings have a solar panel system installed - either on individual roofs, or in a central location for housing developments. 

The new standards “focus on four key areas: smart residential photovoltaic systems, updated thermal envelope standards (preventing heat transfer from the interior to exterior and vice versa), residential and nonresidential ventilation requirements, and nonresidential lighting requirements,” said California Energy Commission spokesperson Amber Beck.

California law requires that any new building standards must be cost-effective to consumers - meaning that their energy bill savings over the life of the building is greater than any increased construction costs due to the mandate. For all the new homes and buildings expected to be permitted in 2020, the Energy Commission says based on a 30-year mortgage, the new standards will add about $40 in monthly payments, but will save homeowners about $80 on monthly energy bills.

In terms of building costs, the Commission says it will add just under ten thousand dollars to up-front costs, but will save nineteen thousand dollars over a 30-year period.

Christie Cromeenes, executive director of the Central Coast Builders Association, said in an email to KCBX News Wednesday afternoon she’s concerned the cost of mandated solar panels will stifle growth. 

“Speaking for our local...area, we already have expensive issues; it costs more to build in coastal areas...in building fees, labor costs, property costs," Cromeenes said, as well as mandated "storm water run-off mitigation measures."