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California Solar Panel Law: Overview and Essential Information


The California Building Standards Commission approved a new law in 2018 that would require houses built from 2020 onwards to have a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to power them. It has been met with much controversy and debate, but it remains one of the most progressive environmental laws in the country. This article will discuss all the salient points of the new law as well as the concerns raised about the law.


What is the Solar Mandate?

The law dictates that all new homes be powered by solar energy generated by on-site panels from 1st January 2020 onwards. This mandate applies to all single-family units and multi-family dwellings of up to three stories. The number of solar panels would depend on the construction project, but  should be enough to power the entire home. The size of the panels will vary for homes that opt for battery storage. A good estimate when deciding this is to assume the average usage to be 2 watts per square foot. This mandate includes all ADUs as well.


What difference will the solar mandate make?

The state says the solar panel requirements will help to reduce air pollution from home heating and cooling systems. The law increases dependency on cleaner forms of energy for powering homes and helps create savings for homeowners. Evaluations show that the solar panels help reduce the home owner's utility bill by as much as $80 every month. The solar panels can be programmed to generate extra electricity during the day to reduce peak energy demand. Buyers may be required to pay $5,000 to $12,000 for installing these solar panels. This cost can be included in the mortgage and does create a large or sudden financial burden. Homeowners also have the option of leasing solar panels. This is feasible for those unwilling to pay any costs upfront.

The total costs of adhering to the law are not yet known and are likely to change. Regardless, it is important to remember that the full cost of complying with the law will likely fall on the owners of new homes, who are already being forced to conform to a range of higher energy efficiency and new building standards.

If you are planning to build a new home in California, you will need the engineering plans and ensure that all the calculations for the solar panel installation are done accurately to avoid a delay. Design Everest can help you plan your  installation of solar panels hassle-free and offer you a quick turnaround without making the process longer than it needs to be.

The federal government helps subsidize solar installations, and homeowners can claim that support. These subsidies are available through the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which offers an upfront credit that reduces the cost of new solar installations. California is proposing that residential solar owners also pay a fee, known as the "net metering credit," to receive the tax credit. However, the proposed fee will be higher than the tax credit and represents roughly half of what solar owners can recoup in total cost savings from solar panels. Given these confusing factors, it's crucial for owners of solar panels to understand the law, what the implementation process is, and how to comply as soon as possible. Design Everest helps clients with the structural plans and installation process while ensuring that these plans are legal and complete with the permits needed.

Homeowners can enjoy a 26% tax credit on the total cost incurred in purchasing and installation of solar panels. All homeowners paying federal taxes are eligible for this credit. Other incentives include Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH), Multifamily Affordable Solar Homes (MASH), and Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP).


Why is this Law Important?

Homebuilders typically shy away from building houses that are considered "green" because it can often be financially challenging to build new eco-friendly homes or retrofit existing homes with solar panels. The California Solar Panel Law is intended to help encourage homeowners to install solar panels on their houses.

Since solar panels are capable of generating more energy than residents may need, solar panels can be a cost-effective way for homeowners to power their homes and also to find a new stream of income. Many homeowners will benefit from tax credits that will be given to those who put solar panels on their homes, thus, contributing to their overall savings. In addition, they will also be able to sell solar power to tenants. However, it is important to remember that solar does not work as efficiently in cloudy weather, so the dependency on this form of energy may not be uniform throughout the year.


Are any properties exempt from the California Solar Mandate?

There are a few exceptions to this mandate, which are as follows:

  • Correctional facilities
  • Solar panels need not be installed in structures that are being rebuilt after a natural catastrophe.
  • Properties without adequate facilities for installing solar panels. These may include roofs that may have any setbacks in receiving sunlight. These structures are exempted from the installation of solar panels on the buildings. Instead, residents from such buildings can access solar energy from shared solar farms approved by the California Clean Energy Commission.
  • Buildings in areas where there is no direct sunlight to charge the photovoltaic systems. Google’s Project Sunroof is a reliable tool to find out the solar potential of your home.
  • Buildings in areas where the electricity rates are exceptionally low. These include remote job sites and other temporary structures.

The above buildings are exempted but are still encouraged to use sustainable forms of energy as much as possible. .

Solar power has always been something we all appreciate and talk about, but it has hit its stride over the last five years. With the release of new technology and improvements in efficiency, the solar energy industry has been growing   rapidly. . The California Solar Panel Law is the first of its kind in the United States. This  law provides a gradual transition to more clean energy for California residents while addressing the state's environmental issues.

The experts at Design Everest can handhold you in the entire process. Get in touch with us over the phone on (877) 427-5585, or visit our site today to schedule a consultation to know how Design Everest can help with your solar installation needs. Our permit process is easy and ensures that you receive all the permits in the most hassle-free manner for solar installation.


*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.

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