Current California laws require new construction projects under 10 stories to be “solar ready,” meaning they are built with 15% of the roof surface clear and unshaded to accommodate the addition of solar panels or solar thermal systems later in the building’s life cycle. Senate Bill 71, new legislation introduced to the State Senate and modeled after recently implemented laws in San Francisco, would require the photovoltaic (PV) panels or thermal system to also be in place at the completion of the project.
“California can and will remain the national leader in building a clean energy future, and solar power is critical in moving us down that path,” said California State Sen. Scott Wiener, author of the San Francisco legislation as well as SB 71. The bill is moving through the senate committees and will likely be voted on this legislative season.
If enacted, buildings that begin construction on or after January 1, 2018 would be required to comply. The benefits of making the PV or thermal system mandatory at completion include higher resale value with the systems in place, lower utility bills in water heating and/or electricity for future owners, as well as meeting local goals for solar power production and regional climate action plans. Some builders, however, are concerned about the additional cost of the distributed energy systems.
The bill presents ways those costs could be offset, such as having a third party maintain and have ownership of the solar panels. Under this arrangement, a building owner would lease the solar panels where the owner would either pay for the use of a solar system, or sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) to set the rate for electricity that is generated. Federal incentives and California state rebates are also available to aid in buying solar systems.