California to require rooftop solar for most new homes

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With this action, California becomes the first state in America to mandate solar panels as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. No industry group registered opposition at this point.

The California Building Industry Association supports the solar panel requirement after years of working with the energy commission to refine it, said Robert Raymer, the association's technical director.

Several other states have considered similar measures, so it remains to be seen if California will be a trendsetter for the rest of the nation.

California averages about 80,000 new homes a year, with about 15,000 now including solar installations.

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The commission estimates solar panels would boost construction costs for a single-family home by roughly $10,000.

But Republican legislative leaders argue Californians can not afford to pay any more for housing in what is already an extremely expensive market. The construction costs are steep, but could be outweighed by the amount the solar panels could save in utilities costs.

"That's just going to drive the cost up and make California, once again, not affordable to live", said Assemblyman Brian Dahle, the chamber's Republican leader. More than 5 million homes in the state use solar power, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Over all, at the current rate of home building, the new requirement will increase the annual number of rooftop solar installations by 44 percent.

This historic revision of building energy codes ensures a large investment in residential rooftop solar and energy efficiency as California pursues its mandate of getting 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030.

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Some California cities, including San Francisco, San Mateo and Lancaster, already have similar ordinances in place.

Constructing a home in accordance with the new rules will add about $9,500 in immediate costs, according to estimates by the Energy Commission.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will be installed on every house that receives a building permit, as well as condominiums and apartments up to three stories high. There are some exceptions to the solar panel rule, such as homes that would be shaded by trees or buildings or when roofs are too small for the panels.

California has set a goal of all residential buildings being 'zero net energy, ' meaning they produce as much energy as they consume.

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