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California Passes Solar Panel Requirement on New Homes

Starting in 2020, all new homes constructed in California will be required to have between 2 kilowatts and 3 kilowatts of electricity sourced directly from solar panels. State legislators, whom have been considering such a measure for some time, officially voted recently to amend state building codes. Other states are watching how the change plays out and may want to follow suit, California officials have said. “These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country,” says Kent Sasaki, chair of the California Building Standards Commission. “It’s the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce consumption of fossil fuels.”

The new mandate, however, won’t be cheap to homeowners. The upfront costs of installing typical solar panels ranges from $8,000 to $12,000. The timing of the move also worries residents who lost their homes in recent wildfires in California because the mandate will add to their rebuilding costs. “With median home prices in California already more than double the national average, this decision will make it even more difficult for the average Californian to afford a home,” California Assemblyman James Gallagher wrote in a recent letter to the Building Standards Commission.

But the commission says the extra costs, which will be applied to a homeowner’s mortgage, should be minimal over the life of the loan. In the case of a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, the additional cost amounts to an extra $40 per month—but the savings in monthly utility charges could be around $80 per month. The commission also says homeowners can lease solar panels instead of buying them up front.

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