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California sets shining example for solar with new building codes

California is set for a solar boom as new building codes state nearly every new-build home comes with enough solar panels to meet its electricity needs.

The solar mandate will ensure the US state remains the focus of national – and international – attention for its clean energy policy; as well as driving a boom in rooftop solar construction and installation.

The new building codes, approved unanimously by the California Energy Commission (CEC), came into effect the first day of 2020 and apply to every home under four storeys tall (with a few exceptions). The cost of the solar systems — about $8,400 per unit on average — will be offset by long-term savings, the CEC predicts.

California already leads the US in home solar panels. It is also home to the 579-megawatt Solar Star, the largest solar farm currently operating in the United States. Solar makes up about one-seventh of its electricity supply, a figure that is expected to grow for the state to meet its goal of 100% carbon-free power by 2045.

It is already home to a number of regional events in the sector: the Intersolar North America event in San Diego (February 4-6, 2020); Infocast’s Solar Power Finance & Investment Summit in the same city (March 17-19 2020), and Solar Power International, part of North America Smart Energy Week, September 14-17 in Anaheim.

Its core of knowledge in the sector, including the Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development (CSSD), and the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy (SC-RISE) have welcomed a number of thought leaders and partners to converge on the state of solar technology, most recently at the February 2019 two-day Solar Energy Conference.

The new building codes are expected to ‘normalise’ the use of rooftop solar. PulteGroup, one of the nation’s largest constructors of homes is moving toward solar as standard, according to its CEO, Ryan Marshall.

Bob Raymer, a senior engineer for the California Building Industry Association, predicted the solar building codes could become a template for the rest of the country. “You can bet every state will be watching to see what happens.”

Already, both Massachusetts and Maryland’s Montgomery County are considering solar mandates.

The building requirements will also offer a big boost for America’s rooftop solar industry. California is forecast to make up more than half the market for new US rooftop systems in 2020, according to BNEF.

California-based solar installer Sunrun says it has contracted or started conversations with half of the top 10 homebuilders in California. It announced a partnership with Citadel Roofing & Solar to provide California builders a single source to procure roofing, solar systems, installation, and financing. Batteries are probably next, as California’s regulations allow builders to reduce the size of solar arrays by 25% or more if storage is attached.

(via Quartz, Bloomberg)