Building A Home In California? You’ll Be Required To Have Solar Panels

As if home prices weren’t high in California as it is. Trulia rates the state 3rd in median home price behind Hawaii and D.C. (obviously, there are tons of factors that make home prices higher, so it can’t all be blamed on state and local rules and such). And CNBC ranked California 3rd highest for cost of living, behind NY and Hawaii

California to become first U.S. state mandating solar on new homes

For seven years, a handful of homebuilders offered solar as an optional item to buyers willing to pay extra to go green.

Now, California is on the verge of making solar standard on virtually every new home built in the Golden State.

The California Energy Commission is scheduled to vote Wednesday, May 9, on new energy standards mandating most new homes have solar panels starting in 2020.

If approved as expected, solar installations on new homes will skyrocket.

An interesting question I haven’t found an answer for yet is whether the solar would all go directly to the home, or being linked into the grid, meaning your home would be part of the energy companies property. Anyhow, solar installation would skyrocket not because people want it, but because government demands it. And they’re trying to wipe out the use of natural gas at the same time

In addition to widespread adoption of solar power, the new provisions include a push to increase battery storage and increase reliance on electricity over natural gas. Among the highlights:

  • The new solar mandate would apply to all houses, condos and apartment buildings up to three stories tall that obtain building permits after Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Exceptions or alternatives will be allowed when homes are shaded by trees or buildings or when the home’s roofs are too small to accommodate solar panels.
  • Solar arrays can be smaller because homes won’t have to achieve true net-zero status.
  • Builders installing batteries like the Tesla Powerwall would get “compliance credits,” allowing them to further reduce the size of the solar system.
  • Provisions will encourage more electric use or even all-electric homes to reduce natural gas consumption. State officials say improved technology is making electric water heaters increasingly cost-effective.

The mandate dates back to 2007 when the state energy commission adopted the goal of making homebuilding so efficient “newly constructed buildings can be net zero energy by 2020 for residences and by 2030 for commercial buildings.”

You can see builders finding ways to make sure the buildings are shaded. On the bright side, perhaps this will lead to builders not clear cutting land for developments.

The new energy standards add about $25,000 to $30,000 to the construction costs compared with homes built to the 2006 code, said C.R. Herro, Meritage’s vice president of environmental affairs. Solar accounts for about $14,000 to $16,000 of that cost, with increased insulation and more efficient windows, appliances, lighting and heating accounting for another $10,000 to $15,000.

But that $25,000 to $30,000 will result in $50,000 to $60,000 in the owner’s reduced operating costs over the 25-year life of the home’s solar system, Herro said.

The problem is, most people do not stay in their homes for 25 years. And that up-front cost is not exactly chump-change. And, then you have repair costs, upkeep costs, and it makes it more expensive for the repair and upkeep costs for the roof itself. And, really, how does this help?

At night when there’s no solar power, people come home, turn on the lights, the TV and possibly the air conditioning and start pulling power from the grid, he said. Some gas-powered generating plants then are fired up to help meet that additional load, boosting carbon emissions.

“That additional (home-generated) solar kilowatt-hour isn’t worth very much because it’s displacing what is already clean energy,” McAllister said. “That net-zero home is not a net-carbon-zero home.”

Yeah, most people are gone during most days. At night, solar can only help so much, if the home has lots of expensive batteries.

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5 Responses to “Building A Home In California? You’ll Be Required To Have Solar Panels”

  1. Dana says:

    A solar system is more than just the panels; it includes converters and the battery storage system.

    The general range for a solar battery’s useful lifespan is between 5 and 15 years. If you install a solar battery today, you will likely need to replace it at least once to match the 25 to 30 year lifespan of your PV system. However, just as the lifespan of solar panels has increased significantly in the past decade, it is expected that solar batteries will follow suit as the market for energy storage solutions grows.

    Proper maintenance can also have a significant effect on your solar battery’s lifespan. Solar batteries are significantly impacted by temperature, so protecting your battery from freezing or sweltering temperatures can increase its useful life. When a PV battery drops below 30° F, it will require more voltage to reach maximum charge; when that same battery rises above the 90° F threshold, it will become overheated and require a reduction in charge. To solve this problem, many leading battery manufacturers, like Tesla, provide temperature moderation as a feature. However, if the battery that you buy does not, you will need to consider other solutions like earth-sheltered enclosures. Quality maintenance efforts can definitely impact how long your solar battery will last.

    In other words, homeowners, many (most?) of whom will have little knowledge or experience with mechanical systems, will have to maintain the solar system. The batteries will need complete replacement at least once — and probably more often — during the 25-year life cycle of the system.

    Batteries also lose efficiency over time, before complete failure. In a state like California, where air conditioning costs are high, there will be considerable use of the battery system during the evenings and nights, when the solar system is not generating power, and less during the day, when everyone is away from home, at work or school.

  2. Mike says:

    My solar system produces, on average, a little more than I use every year. Solar is cyclical, producing peak power on longer summer days, winter…not so much. Also, I continue to use electricity after the sun goes down.
    The main benefit to the grid that I see, is producing power during that peak A/C usage in summer, reducing, along with fellow solarians, the need for additional power plants to come online.

    My installation was not on a new home, but it wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in the future, solar might become a requirement for the sale or transfer of certain mortgages. So, I’m covered.

    I viewed my system purchase as pre-purchasing my electricity for the next ten years, partially as a hedge against rate increases. The higher the rates, the quicker the ROI.

    But then, I intentionally front loaded my costs in preparation for my retirement. Front loading the costs on new houses will price many new buyers out of the market, no matter how it might benefit them should they theoretically live there for the life of the system.

    And solar is not without maintenance…

    • drowningpuppies says:

      Just curious.
      What was your total cost for the initial installation?
      Did you receive a subsidy or rebate?
      If so, how much?
      What are your maintainance costs?

  3. Solar planning factors:
    1. Panels themselves need replacement every 25 years and start producing less energy every year after they are installed. As a planning factor, you will only get rated wattage from them out of the box on the sunniest day in the Arizona or California desert. The farther north you go, the less juice you get.
    2. Panels produce 12 or 24v DC electricity. Storing it into batteries and you reduce the amount saved by 30%. Using a transformer to use it in 110V homes loses up to 70%. The most efficient way to use it, is right off the panels, in a home wired for native 12v or 24v DC use. DC well pumps, and DC lighting are the easiest. Almost everything else needs a transformer.
    3. The most common batteries are deep cycle lead acid batteries (like in your car, but better). NOT environmentally friendly and having enough of them to save “sunlight” can cost almost as much as the solar panels. Then plan to replace them every 5-10 years (old batteries and the acid that was in them go to the landfill where they get recycled, maybe). Or you can use more exotic batteries that cost much more and use rare earth elements that use a significant amount of electricity to refine and turn into batteries (like in your cell phone).

    So overall. A solar power system uses much more electricity to create than they will ever produce in their useful life. Solar is only efficient in places where connecting to the grid is not economically viable (like on satellites in orbit). We have the power grid because that is the most efficient way to deliver and use electricity in a civilized society. If you can run a power line to the grid, it is ALWAYS more economical to use it than to pay to be “off the grid”. Unless, your goal has nothing to do with saving energy, reducing carbon, or being economical. If your goal is to force other people to buy the products your friends make in their subsidized factory, so that your friend will “appreciate it”, then solar (and windmills) are the way of the future.

  4. bkhuna says:

    The last thing we need is a reason for more Californians to move elsewhere. We need a wall…
    to keep them in.

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