In the year 2018, California Building Standards Commission approved a mandate that required all new homes under three stories to install residential solar panels. This first of its kind solar roof mandate in the United States will go into effect from 1st January, 2020.

This new mandate allows ground-breaking advancement of clean energy, promotes a variety of home energy efficiency upgrades and incentivizes energy storage that will mutually reduce the energy usage in new homes by more than 50%. However, there are various solar system requirements, deployment and financing options, flexibility measures, building process provisions, costs, maintenance responsibilities, and energy savings estimates within the updated building code that homeowners should be aware of.

System Requirements

California’s solar roof mandate is valid for new residential buildings, three stories tall and under. As per the mandate, the solar PV system must be large enough to net out the annual energy usage of the home in kilowatt-hours. So, depending on the location within the state and house’s energy efficiency, an average California homeowner should expect their solar energy system to be sized between 2.7 and 5.7 kilowatts (appx). In addition to solar, the mandate also encourages the deployment of battery storage and heat pump water heaters in newly built homes.

Flexibility Measures

This mandate includes a number of flexibility measures like the option for builders to deploy community solar rather than rooftop solar for new homes. Pursuing community solar for large-scale projects reduces labor costs for builders, but this may not be the most beneficial option for homeowners from a cost perspective. Right now, California’s regulations prevent homeowners from taking advantage of net metering while in a community solar arrangement.

Another flexibility measure allows potential exemptions from the mandate for homes where electricity rates are lower than the cost of solar power or where the roof cannot sustain solar panels due to shading or other reasons.

Solar Deployment & Financing

Builders do have the ability to pursue community solar instead of rooftop solar for residential buildings. But, builders who choose the rooftop route have multiple courses of action that they may take within that sector as well.

One option for builders is to request bids from and outsource projects to solar companies and general contractors. In this scenario, the builder can either permit homeowners to pay for the system upfront in cash, obtain a loan to pay for the system, or sign into a lease or else allow the project to be rolled into the overall price of the home and paid for through the mortgage.

Another option for the builders is to bring the solar process in-house and create their own solar division within the company. As per the mandate, financing options for homeowners would likely be similar to those available for outsourced projects.