San Francisco Mandates Solar Panels On All New Buildings

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While thousands are expected to descend on Golden Gate Park today to smoke weed in protest of marijuana laws and leave about five tons of trash behind when they leave, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors actually did something to clean up the city by unanimously force new construction projects to include solar panels on buildings tens stories or less.

San Francisco joins an elite club as its only member

Today, the city of San Francisco following the lead of the tiny Northern California of Lancaster and Sebastopol, unanimously passed legislation put in front of the Board of Supervisors making solar panels on the roofs of new buildings mandatory.

In making this move, San Francisco became the first city of any real size in the United States to mandate solar installations. The legislation was introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener and will add to the city’s green agenda that includes the launch of CleanPowerSF later this year that puts the city of a legislated renewable energy path.

“In an era when we are reminded daily of our rapidly changing climate, it is so important that we continue our strong push to alternative, non-fossil fuel energies,” Wiener said. “Solar energy is a key part of our move to a clean energy future.”

Despite all those pot heads (I smoke occasionally, so no need to blowup the comments section) leaving a bunch of trash in the park, San Francisco has a goal of putting zero waste in landfills, nearly forcing people to use the bus or a bicycle 50% of the time and getting all of the city’s energy needs filled by renewables all by the year 2025.

Both new residential properties and commercial properties will be subject to the legislation requiring rooftop solar systems beginning in January of 2017. The new legislation will go quite a ways to having the city completely powered by renewable energy in nine years time, but certainly won’t get the city there by itself.

“That 100 percent renewable energy depends on both development of renewable energy resources and continued improvement in energy efficiency,” said Barry Hooper, the Department of Environment Green Building Coordinator

“This ordinance represents one more straightforward and pragmatic step toward that goal,” Hooper said. “It’s been demonstrated as being highly cost effective.”

California state law on solar steroids

California, as a state, has already passed legislation that mandates that (most) new construction must have at least 15% of the building’s rooftop solar ready, but at the same time doesn’t mandate that a solar system be installed but simply be equipped to deal with a photovoltaic system. This legislation clearly trumps that with Wiener’s, now passed, proposal mandating immediate installation before move in is allowed.

While commercial properties could be forced to make a rather sizable investment based on the building’s layout, the average residential solar installation will run about $20,000 according to the nonprofit Center for Sustainable Energy.

The city’s Department of Environment looked at present construction proposals that would fall under the new legislation and believe that the mandated installations would “avoid over 26,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.”

Additionally, those same projects would add 7.4 megawatts of solar energy, which can produce 10.5 gigawatt hours each year, to the city’s grid.

Jeanine Cotter, co-founder of Luminalt, a solar installation company that is likely licking here chops at the unanimous passage of the initiative said, “This is where we need to go as a planet. Sebastopol and Lancaster California both have mandates and there is no reason why San Francisco shouldn’t lead the way for the large cities in the state.”

It goes without saying that Ms. Cotter is speaking to her own interests as well as those of the planet.

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