Published on January 4th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Lancaster Home Solar Mandate — 1st In US (& World?) — Leads City Into 2014

January 4th, 2014 by  

It’s now officially a requirement in Lancaster, California — all new single-family homes have to come with solar power. The work of a buggy-eyed communist? The work of a smile-less tyrant? The work of a tree-hugging hippy? Nope. This home solar mandate comes largely through the hands of Mayor Rex Parris, the elected Republican who heads up this city of 59,000.

The residential solar mandate was actually passed by the City Council of Lancaster in March, but it didn’t come into play for new homes until January 1, 2014. With that day passed, new single-family residential units must include at least 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar power capacity per home. Notably, however, that doesn’t mean that solar panels have to be on each roof. “Lancaster’s Residential Zoning Ordinance was comprehensively revised to require new home builders to meet the aggregate energy generation requirement within a production subdivision, though solar energy systems do not have to be on every home,” The Civic Bee writes. Logical, of course.

Image Credit: City of Lancaster

Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris.
Image Credit: City of Lancaster

“We continue to aggressively pursue net-zero status, and this approval by the CEC proves we are indeed on the right path,” Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said in a city news release. “Requiring solar power assets for new residential construction in the coming years will bring Lancaster one huge step closer to becoming the Alternative Energy Capital of the World, while providing new homeowners with earth-friendly and cost-effective benefits.”

“Alternative Energy Capital of the World” will require a lot more than this home solar mandate, but that’s certainly a good step in the direction of that nebulous capital.

Lancaster’s Director of Public Works, Robert C. Neal, notes one of the non-environmental benefits of this move. “It will help stabilize our electricity rate,” he said. Yes — as much as solar is necessary in order to combat global warming and air pollution, it also comes with clear financial benefits for its owners, such as lower and more stable electricity rates.

However, that’s not to say that a drive to stop global warming wasn’t a huge part of this. “The one thing we have to recognize is just how desperate this situation is with global warming,” Mayor Parris said last year, “and at the same time recognize that we can actually fix it. We have tremendous capability if we just have the courage to do it.”

Surprising to hear from a Republican? Not so much, Parris notes. “The Republican Party is in a quandary because the polling shows that the voters support environmental protection. It’s the leadership that doesn’t,” Parris said. “You’d have to be a moron to discount global warming. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t recognize it’s occurring.”

While Lancaster has led the way into solar mandates, another California city — Sebastopol — in May approved an ordinance requiring solar power with all new residential and commercial buildings. I assume that ordinance may have also come into effect, but the original file regarding that seems to have been removed from the Sebastopol website, so I’ve reached out to the city to get more details.

I was hoping more cities would jump on this solar mandate bandwagon by the end of 2013, but I haven’t heard of any others. If you know of other cities — in the US or other countries — with similar solar mandates, let us know! For now, thanks to Rex Parris and the city of Lancaster for leading the way forward.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • SparkyBtheWonderDog

    My bungalow on Prince Edward Island, Canada, is heated right now with a solar air heater (Cansolair) and its a very comfortable 72-75F inside on a cold and snow covered day (19F today, although it was -20F yesterday, and it was the same temperature inside then too) 3500 miles ENE of Lancaster CA. Ditto with the solar hot water panels on the roof. Hot water for ZERO running cost as the circulator pumps have their own PV cell, and the solar warm air costs me less than $15.00 a year for the 31 Watt fan on the Cansolair. Within a year, I’ll also have solar PV panels, supplying my electricity. Its not how warm it is outside, its the SUNSHINE and it works even in midwinter way up north about 6 or 7 climate zones colder than Lancaster CA. Actually, sunshine works pretty well on those cold, crisp, bitter (and cloudless) dry winter days, with the sunshine reflecting off the snow onto solar panels. So, if it works here, it will work ANYWHERE in North America, and likely much better than here, which is sunny the way Germany is sunny (ie, not exceptionally) Yeah, and even here my solar systems ($11K for both) are entirely paid for in house heating furnace oil not burned and electricity not used for hot water in under 5 years…

    • agelbert

      I hope all of us in Vermont follow your example!
      Thank you for what you are doing.

  • Jim Smith

    Where are all the Republicans complaining about this massive invasion of government into the housing market???? This Marxist/Communist/Socialist Democrat, i mean Republican, Mayor. How dare he tell me what to do???!?!?!??!?

    • heinbloed

      Why living there, Jim Smith? 🙂

    • Ross

      I assume you’re joking but just in case you aren’t the ordinance doesn’t require solar on every home. Home builders can choose to build a proportion of houses without panels to cater for the crazies that don’t want them.

  • heinbloed

    To answer the question:

    It was the town of Marburg/Hessia/Germany which made solar building a compulsary duty (building regulation) for new buildings some years ago.
    This local building legislation was compulsary but not ‘in the dry ‘ yet since it was cashed in by a high court.

    Now since the latest elections last year the conservative-green government will reintroduce it (so they say both) for entire Hessia, will change the constitution or the Hessian building regulations – we will see how far they get.

    In the mean time India wasn’t lazy and asked communities to offer their infrastructure for a first solar town.
    And masses of towns wanted to be the one!

    It is the town of Kochi who has introduced the first legally binding solar building regulations:

    ‘Leading’ needs brainwork, social understanding, cooperation. Not just full pockets.

    My congratulations!

    And instead of threatening each other with total atomic distruction (thanks to Dutch, USA and Russian knowledge and equipment) India and Pakistan are now cooperating in the RE sector:

    The Energiewende means more than another socket. Make peace, not war!

  • Ross

    America leads the world and California leads America.

    • In some ways… (on part 1). Part 2: definitely.

    • Justin Barkewich

      It used to be that way… we are only waking up a giant again.

      • Ross

        It did in my youth anyway and hopefully will again. In most respects it still does. 5 Years of a Democrat in the White house has helped.

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