They may not be fun to read, but the building codes and mandates are something that every building owner needs to understand and become familiar with. The more you understand, the better you can maintain your buildings and protect your investments over time. They also help keep your buildings up to code, which will bring you more success in the long term. The 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards are designed to get California into solar power without inconveniencing too many people. The main points you need to know are discussed below.
What You Need to Know About the California Solar Mandate
The time to recoup money spent on solar installation has been a time-consuming challenge for building owners, and the process is still not a cheap one. The California Energy Commission (CEC) estimates that new construction of an up-to-code building will increase by $9,500 but you will save $19,000 on energy and maintenance costs. On top of this, if multiple buildings are constructed within the same neighborhood, labor and transportation costs can be combined which will lower the per-unit installation cost.
- It is important to understand that not all buildings are covered by the new solar mandate. Multi-family homes fewer than three stories in height are included. Industrial, commercial and high-rise residential buildings are not. There are also new climate-zone specifics to be enforced which state that common areas in all multi-family buildings are not included in the sizing calculations for energy usage that gets compensated.
- Multi-family developments and builders will now need to consider solar installation on any new projects. Previously, there was not much incentive for this, but now owners can include solar power so installation and maintenance will need to be factored into rental prices and planning costs. There may be resistance when it comes to renters not wanting to cover the increased costs with solar power. Owners have to be creative when accounting for solar system needs and time to recoup the costs to keep everyone happy.
- The ‘duck curve’ charts energy usage throughout the day compared to energy generation. During the day the potential for generation always exceeds the demand and in the evening more energy is needed but less is produced. This updated mandate includes compliance credit to reduce the impact of this curve. The installation of batteries during the day allows power to be stored during times of high generation and used later when demand is high, but little energy is being produced.
- Solar systems will lose functionality without proper maintenance so customer education will be critical for this. The new code includes that it is now mandatory that an update to the building owner be provided as to how the system is operating. These updates need to be completed and the builders of these new solar-powered buildings must include warranty and maintenance costs in their plans.
- Since not all buildings are the same, flexibility is important. The idea is to use community solar and not individual rooftop units, and by having a single solar garden, labor costs can be reduced. However, the tenants will not benefit from net metering of this solar arrangement. There are also rules in place stating that if a roof can not sustain solar panels for any reason, builders have the option of trade-offs and storage credit to consider.
- Local authorities have the ability to make codes more stringent, so you should always refer back to them when you want to build. If they are able to demonstrate that changes to the code will reduce energy consumption the CEC will allow their changes to be made. This is great in terms of flexibility but it means that you need to verify all designs with local authorities to make sure any changes have been incorporated into your design.
These are the main points of the new mandate and there are more details available in the full 2018 California Solar Mandate code. Understanding the new solar changes coming into place will be essential for your success.
If after plenty of research, you’ve determined that you want to invest in solar panels, don’t start researching solar installers just yet. First, we suggest checking to make sure your roof is as ready for a solar panel installation as you are. There are three main factors you should consider:
- The age of your roof
- The roofing material
- Possible obstacles for the solar panels
If you’re not sure whether your roof is ideal for solar panels, give us a call and we’ll evaluate the condition of your roof at no charge.