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Another CA City Bans Construction of Buildings Without Solar Panels

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SeSolar panels on a Sebastopol roof | Photo: ATIS547/Flickr/Creative Commons Licensebastopol-solar-2013-05-10-thumb-600x433-50848, by klxadm

The City Council of Sebastopol, a liberal enclave in Northern California's semi-rural Sonoma County, voted Tuesday to require that all new residential and commercial buildings in the city include rooftop solar. Sebastopol thus joins the Mojave Desert city of Lancaster in banning new construction without solar panels.

According to the new regulations approved unanimously by the Sebastopol City Council, new homes and commercial buildings must include enough solar generating capacity to cover 75 percent of the building's annual power consumption, or two watts of capacity per square foot of "insulated building area." That means moderately sized homes of 1,000 square feet will be required to include two kilowatts of solar panels, significantly larger than the solar arrays often installed on small homes.

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Homes without solar potential would have other avenues available to them to comply with the new rules, including paying a fee.

According to Guy Kovner at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Sebastopol's policy was in the works well before Lancaster announced its decision to require solar panels on or near new residential construction. "We were going to be number one," Kovner reported Mayor Michael Kyes saying prior to the Council vote. "Now we're number two."

But Sebastopol has upped the ante on Lancaster. Not only does the new policy cover commercial development where Lancaster's only covers residential, but Sebastopol's new rule also covers significant remodels and renovations.

So we've got a conservative Southern California city and a liberal Northern California city both now mandating rooftop solar on new construction. Who's next?

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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