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Homebuilders all over California will be required to install solar panels on newly-constructed homes built from 2020 onwards. Several major cities currently have similar legislation in place, but California will be the first to implement it at state level. California has been working on this change for approximately two years, but it still came as something of a surprise to residents who don’t typically read the state’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards. The regulations apply to all low-rise residential condo and apartment buildings under three stories high, and homes can only be exempted if they are frequently in the shade, so for new home builders it’s important to find out whether this is likely to affect you.

What are California’s new solar requirements?

California is projected to build 74,154 new homes during 2020, and if the same number of homes are constructed in the following three years the usage of solar will increase by 14%, reducing the quantity of grid energy by almost 650 megawatts-DC. As the practice becomes standard, building costs associated with the solar systems may well go down based on economies of scale.

How will the requirements affect building costs?

Commenters in the construction industry expect the costs of erecting a new home to increase by between $25,000 and $30,000 by 2020, and around 50% of this is directly attributed to the inclusion of solar requirements. This is offset, though, by saving $50,000 to $60,000 in operating costs over the anticipated 25-year lifespan of the solar system. Calculate how much you could save by installing a solar system in your home now as opposed to waiting a couple of years.

What are the benefits of making solar energy use mandatory?

Making the use of solar energy mandatory makes it impossible for homeowners to refuse. This could cause major changes to the state’s economy, which range from the number of jobs that will be created in the solar energy industry to fulfill the demand. Panel makers and installers will reap the benefits of the increased business, and the economies of scale could help to reduce the costs of solar in the long-term. This results in higher affordability on a global level.

In addition, the regulations come accompanied by a range of other energy efficiency upgrade options, which if they are all implemented will reduce the energy usage in new homes by more than 50%. This is expected to incentivize energy storage for the majority of consumers.

Is what’s happening in California likely to occur in other states?

California has ideal circumstances in that it experiences sunny weather almost year-round. This may not be the case in other environments, and states in the cloudier northwest might find it impractical. Multiple states are already working towards similar measures, however, so it’s almost certain to be a trend that takes hold elsewhere. Colorado, for example, has been working since 2009 to build an infrastructure that can handle solar energy, and is now urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to make commitments that will help put the state on track for a million solar roofs, with 30% solar by 2030.

Also, since 2009, New Jersey home builders have been required to offer solar systems in developments of 25 units or more, wherever it’s feasible to do so. On April 12, 2018, the N.J. House and Senate passed bill A 3723, putting the state in third position behind California and New York for an ambitious renewable energy program. Its 2030 targets beat out Hawaii and Vermont target dates of 2045 and 2032 respectively.  

These examples show California might be in the lead, but there are other states hot on its heels for a share of the solar pie. Do you live in one of the featured states? If not, you’ll need to contact an expert to get information specific to your area.

Should I go solar?

Given the across-the-board shifts towards implementing solar energy in most states, there’s really no reason to wait. If you’re a homeowner planning to stay in your home for the foreseeable future, installing a solar energy system now could bring you some much-needed relief from high utility bills as the summer heat arrives. You’re also helping to reduce your environmental footprint, and there are many special offers and incentives to be found to encourage you to do so. If you’re thinking of selling, installing solar now could significantly boost your resale value.

You could possibly enjoy better deals if you wait until later, but you’ll offset the benefits by sacrificing savings you can achieve through net metering and lower usage in the interim.

In addition, as solar increases in popularity the prices could rise, and the availability of tax rebates and other incentives could diminish. Who knows how long it will be before the current solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) production-based programs are phased out? So, the short answer to this question is a resounding “yes,” and the only decision that remains to be taken is when.

What are the benefits of going solar?

Everyone’s looking for a way to reduce expenses, and the primary benefit of installing a solar system is cost savings. From the tax rebates to the monthly savings, you’ll see a difference in your cost of living once you take the plunge. Before you make your decision to install a solar electric system, find out how much you can expect to save each month and compare that with the cost of not doing so.

Next, there’s energy security, which could become even more important in the future with the increasing pace of climate change. Homes are going to need to be able to maintain life-sustaining temperatures under all types of conditions. If your power is knocked out as a result of active weather, a shortage of resources or any other circumstances beyond your control, being self-sufficient will help you get through extended outages safely and comfortably.

Third, supporting the environment goes hand-in-hand with all the other benefits, because the less we can strain our resources, the lower our costs are and the less we contribute to hastening climate change.

What are the best states for solar energy?

This depends on what you’re looking for. The “best” states in terms of ultra-violet light to capture and convert into solar electricity are states with more days of sunlight per year. This typically includes southern states such as:

  • California

  • Texas

  • Arizona

  • Florida

  • New Mexico

  • Hawaii

That doesn’t necessarily mean these are the most welcoming states for solar energy proponents, however, and New York, Colorado, and New Jersey are evidence of this. New York, for example, is right up in the top three along with New Jersey and California, with property and sales tax exemptions, and a requirement for utilities to purchase a certain amount of renewable energy from homeowners. This is in spite of recent replacement of its net metering practice with a complex Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) program.

California is definitely ahead at present with this new legislation, but it’s not likely to hold the lead position for long. Wherever you live, you can be a leader in your community by installing a solar system and reaping all the benefits of early adoption and cost savings.

How much can a solar energy system save you?

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