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News May 7, 2018

California expected to be first state to require solar power on new homes

The California Energy Commission will vote May 9 regarding new standards mandating almost all new houses be equipped with solar panels beginning in 2020, and the commission is expected to approve the mandate, according to www.inhabitat.com.

If approved, the solar mandate would cover all houses, apartments and condominiums as high as three stories obtaining building permits after Jan. 1, 2020. There could be some acceptable alternatives or exceptions—for example, if structures are shaded by other buildings or trees or if a roof is too small to accommodate solar panels. The new standards would offer compliance credits for builders who install batteries such as Tesla's Powerwall, which would allow them to cut the size of their solar systems. Homes reportedly will not need to reach true net-zero status under the standards.

According to Meritage Homes Vice President of Environmental Affairs C.R. Herro, compared against a 2006 code, the new standards would add about $25,000 to $30,000 to construction costs; $14,000 to $16,000 of that amount would be allocated for solar, and $10,000 to $15,000 would be allocated for increased insulation and appliances, windows, heating and lighting that is more efficient.

Herro says the $25,000 to $30,000 would lead to $50,000 to $60,000 in reduced operating costs during the home solar power system's 25-year lifespan.

Homebuilder and former president of the Orange County Building Industry Association Bill Watt says the added costs could mean home prices will be too high for many buyers.

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