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Solar panels on California homes are set to become more common
Solar panels on California homes are set to become more common | © Ulleo / Pixabay
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California’s Solar Power Efforts Eclipsing the Rest of America

Picture of Peter Ward
Tech Editor
Updated: 14 May 2018
California’s sunny climate and progressive politics make it a potential leader in solar power in the U.S.

Lawmakers in California recently made it mandatory for all new homes to include solar panels, in a move which could increase house prices in the short term, allow savings for homeowners in the long term, and make California the leading state for solar power in the U.S.

“Homes under the [new] standards will use about 50% less energy than those under the previous 2016 standards,” Amber Beck, spokesperson for the California Energy Commission (CEC) told CNN, “and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced as if 115,000 cars were taken off the road.”

The requirement, which will kick in on January 1, 2020, doesn’t come without its downsides. In a state where a lack of affordable housing is a real issue, some reports suggest the new mandate could add between $8,000 and $12,000 to the cost of building a house.

But the CEC calculates savings in the long run, saying that while the initial extra cost may add roughly $40 on average to monthly mortgage payments, residents would save $80 per month on heating, cooling, and lighting bills.

Several California cities, including San Francisco, San Mateo, and Lancaster, have already mandated that specific new buildings must include solar power, or have committed to 100% clean energy plans. Other states have considered a similar proposal, including Washington, D.C.; Massachusetts; and New Jersey, but California is the first to actually pass anything.

California is one of the sunniest states in the U.S.
California is one of the sunniest states in the U.S. | © Harleyufo / Pixabay

California has extremely ambitious renewable energy goals. The state’s law requires that at least 50% of electricity comes from non carbon-emitting sources by the year 2030, and solar power has been a large part of the drive towards that goal. California is easily the leading U.S. state for solar capacity installed. At the end of 2017, the state’s power was made up of almost 16% solar, and the solar industry employs more than 86,000 workers. Nevada, Utah, and Hawaii also boast decent solar capacity.

Next year, California will change the way it charges residents for energy. Power companies will bill their customers based on the time of the day they use the electricity, meaning those using power at busy times will pay more. This will allow those with solar panels to save even more, especially if they use batteries. With these systems, energy can be stored and then used when it’s needed most, meaning customers wouldn’t have to rely on the grid during peak times.

Away from private residences, California also has a number of giant solar facilities generating power all over the state. Solar power is considered to be a crucial resource in helping prevent greenhouse gas emissions from burning hydrocarbons like coal, and makes up a large portion of the renewable energy push across the world. In the U.S., where renewable energy policies are rare of late, California may just lead the way.