By Zachary Shahan
Originally published on CleanTechnica
It’s now officially a requirement in Lancaster, California – all new single-family homes have to come with solar power. The work of a buggy-eyed communist? The work of a smile-less tyrant? The work of a tree-hugging hippy? Nope. This home solar mandate comes largely through the hands of Mayor Rex Parris, the elected Republican who heads up this city of 59,000.
The residential solar mandate was actually passed by the City Council of Lancaster in March, but it didn’t come into play for new homes until January 1, 2014. With that day passed, new single-family residential units must include at least 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar power capacity per home. Notably, however, that doesn’t mean that solar panels have to be on each roof. “Lancaster’s Residential Zoning Ordinance was comprehensively revised to require new home builders to meet the aggregate energy generation requirement within a production subdivision, though solar energy systems do not have to be on every home,” The Civic Bee writes. Logical, of course.
“We continue to aggressively pursue net-zero status, and this approval by the CEC proves we are indeed on the right path,” Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said in a city news release. “Requiring solar power assets for new residential construction in the coming years will bring Lancaster one huge step closer to becoming the Alternative Energy Capital of the World, while providing new homeowners with earth-friendly and cost-effective benefits.”
“Alternative Energy Capital of the World” will require a lot more than this home solar mandate, but that’s certainly a good step in the direction of that nebulous capital.
Lancaster’s Director of Public Works, Robert C. Neal, notes one of the non-environmental benefits of this move. “It will help stabilize our electricity rate,” he said. Yes — as much as solar is necessary in order to combat global warming and air pollution, it also comes with clear financial benefits for its owners, such as lower and more stable electricity rates.
However, that’s not to say that a drive to stop global warming wasn’t a huge part of this. “The one thing we have to recognize is just how desperate this situation is with global warming,” Mayor Parris said last year, “and at the same time recognize that we can actually fix it. We have tremendous capability if we just have the courage to do it.”
Surprising to hear from a Republican? Not so much, Parris notes. “The Republican Party is in a quandary because the polling shows that the voters support environmental protection. It’s the leadership that doesn’t,” Parris said. “You’d have to be a moron to discount global warming. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t recognize it’s occurring.”
While Lancaster has led the way into solar mandates, another California city — Sebastopol — in May approved an ordinance requiring solar power with all new residential and commercial buildings. I assume that ordinance may have also come into effect, but the original file regarding that seems to have been removed from the Sebastopol website, so I’ve reached out to the city to get more details.
I was hoping more cities would jump on this solar mandate bandwagon by the end of 2013, but I haven’t heard of any others. If you know of other cities — in the US or other countries — with similar solar mandates, let us know! For now, thanks to Rex Parris and the city of Lancaster for leading the way forward.