As we reported weeks ago, the United States has passed 1 million solar installations. It’s an exciting milestone, and not the least because we are going to double that much, much more quickly than it took us to get from 1,000 or even 100,000 to 1 million.
One of the things that will drive faster and faster adoption is sensible policy from cities and counties to require air-protecting, climate-stabilizing, job-creating, low-cost solar panels on new buildings. We’ve already seen that in Lancaster (residential buildings only) and Sebastopol (residential and commercial buildings). Apparently, Culver City has a similar mandate as well. Much more recently, San Francisco tagged on to become the largest city with a rooftop solar mandate for new buildings. Now, Santa Monica (where Kyle Field and I recently made our Tesla Model 3 reservations!) is joining the circus.
According to Christian Roseland, though, Santa Monica’s mandate is even stronger than the Culver City, Lancaster, and Sebastopol ones, but comparable to San Francisco’s. He writes: “New single family homes will be required to install a minimum of 1.5 watts of solar PV for every square foot of the building, meaning that a 2,000 square foot (186 square meter) home would need a minimum of 3 kW of solar PV. Multi-family buildings, non-residential buildings and hotels will be required to install 2 watts of PV for every square foot of building footprint.”
Some libertarians in town may be fuming right now and asking how a city has the right to make such a mandate. Well, first of all, cities have all kinds of mandates (building codes are pretty thick, for example) to protect the health and safety of their citizens. As noted above, there are plenty of reasons why renewable energy fits the bill here. Now, you may contend, “Why does it have to be solar? Why not wind or basement nuclear fusion?” The thing is that solar power is cost-competitive (after a massive price drop over recent years) while rooftop wind power is not (and basement nuclear was a joke).
In fact, a key benefit of the mandate is that it is projected to offer large financial savings to the city’s residents. Solar power is now a money saver. Turning back to our buddy Christian: “The city has argued that the benefits of installing solar outweigh the additional cost. The city estimates that new solar PV is expected to add 2.8% to the cost of a single-family home while long-term electricity costs will be reduced an average of 65%, ultimately meaning savings for homeowners.”
But make no mistake, this new mandate is about climate action. It is about Santa Monica doing its part to ensure the livability of the planet. We have already ordered up a large helping of catastrophe, and are on the brink of creating a global warming runaway that we have no logical right to believe we could safely stop.
Santa Monica Sustainability Manager Dean Kubani states: “This is not only the smart thing to do, it is also imperative if we are to protect our kids and grandkids from the worst effects of climate change.” Let’s hope a lot more municipalities are sensible enough to implement similar mandates soon.
Now, to try to be a bit helpful (and promote our own hard work), if you are in Santa Monica (or elsewhere) and looking for tips on going solar, I recommend:
And if you are a solar installer trying to make it big in one of these burgeoning markets, I recommend: