Mandatory Solar May Come To One California City

Rooftop solar in Quartz Hill | Photo: Thomas Hart/Flickr/Creative Commons License

If one Antelope Valley mayor has his way, his city will soon become the first in the nation to require solar panels on all new homes built in the city limits. Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris tells ReWire that a decision on the potentially precedent-setting change to the city's zoning laws could come from the Lancaster City Council in as little as two weeks.

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Under Parris' proposed zoning change, residences built in Lancaster after January 1, 2014 would need to have associated solar generation either built in, for instance on rooftops, or aggregated with the solar panels of nearby homes, for instance on shaded carports. A home on a lot of around 7,000 square feet would require between 1 and 1.5 kilowatts of solar panels.

The zoning changes would also streamline permitting for solar installations, and would implement a few other interesting requirements. for instance, as GreenTech Media reports, model homes in developments would have to display the kinds of solar available to different home designs, and developers building housing tracts in phases would need to build each phase's solar capacity before moving on to the next phase.

Builders could also qualify by buying solar credits from other generating facilities, but they'd have to be within the city of Lancaster.

"I want to offer the builders some flexibiltiy," Parris told ReWire. " New developments require catchbasins for flood runoff, and the builders could put the solar panels there if they choose. Or they could use rooftops. Whatever works."

"I believe global warming is going to be solved in neighborhoods, not by nations," Parris continued. "I want Lancaster to be part of that."

The Antelope Valley city of a bit under 160,000 people has long been at the forefront of solar development, though its ranking among California's solar cities has slipped a bit from the last time ReWire checked: In July 2012, Lancaster had more solar generating capacity in its city limits than any other California city except San Diego and San Jose. In the seven months since, both Fresno and Bakersfield have crept past Lancaster in terms of megawatts of solar capacity within their respective city limits.

Lancaster's still got the lock on watts of solar per capita, though, and if the city council gives Parris' plan the thumbs-up, the city may well reaffirm its title as California's solar capital.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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