California Energy Commission passes solar panel requirements for new homes

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The California Energy Commission passed the 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards on Wednesday, which include a section that would require all new homes built after Jan. 1, 2020 to be fitted with solar panels.

All of the standards are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2020, and the solar panel requirement is only for residential buildings, not nonresidential ones. There are no plans yet to expand the requirement to currently existing buildings, according to Energy Commission spokesperson Amber Beck.

“Under these new standards, buildings will perform better than ever, at the same time they contribute to a reliable grid,” said Commissioner Andrew McAllister in a press release on the commission’s vote. “The buildings that Californians buy and live in will operate very efficiently while generating their own clean energy.”

According to the press release, along with mandating the solar power systems in residential homes, the standards also include ventilation requirements and nonresidential lighting requirements. A fact sheet on the standards also notes that single-family homes will use 7 percent less energy under the 2019 standards than under the 2016 standards, not factoring in the solar power generation — including the solar power generation, homes will be using 53 percent less energy.

Although the requirements extend from single-family homes to apartments and condominiums, they are less likely to affect campus housing because of the height limitations, according to Christopher Orner, CEO of the Helios program.

Helios is an ASUC-sponsored program that was established in a 2015 ASUC referendum and researches the possibility of installing solar panels onto existing campus buildings. Orner said the solar panel standards passed by the commission will not affect Helios’ work because Helios works with existing student housing.

A section of the plan limits the solar panel requirements to buildings with three floors or fewer, and given that most campus housing is taller than three floors, Orner said he expects future campus housing to be the same.

It’s most likely not going to directly affect campus students or university housing,” Orner said.

Sakura Cannestra is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.