Bioenergy, Solar

New Solar Homes Partnership Under Way in California

A blend of energy efficient solar homes will emerge on California’s real estate market this year under the state’s New Solar Homes Partnership — a program that encourages builders to install solar energy systems on new homes as a standard feature for the home buyer, just like granite countertops.

Currently, California has over 23,000 photovoltaic system installations, of which 1,500 are installed on new homes. Beginning in 2011, the partnership will not only encourage but actually require builders to offer solar as a standard feature in new home developments of 50 or more. “Our program is intended to transform the new home industry and have consumers ask for solar in their new home to lower their energy bills,” said California Energy Commission Chairman Jackalyne Pfannenstiel. According to the California Energy Commission (CEC), a new home that qualifies for the New Solar Homes Partnership will be at least 15 percent more efficient than the current energy efficiency standards. The home includes Energy Star-rated appliances, and a roof top solar energy system with a 10-year warranty to protect against defective workmanship or system and component breakdown. “Central air conditioning is a driving factor for California’s energy supply. The New Solar Homes Partnership is an essential element to reduce the need for California to build new power plants,” added Pfannenstiel, noting each year 200,000 new homes are built in California, and most include central air conditioning. The New Solar Homes Partnership is a component of the California Solar Initiative, which was signed into law in 2006 under Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. SB 1 establishes three goals for the California Solar Initiative: create 3,000 megawatts of new solar-produced electricity by 2017, establish a self-sufficient solar industry in which solar energy systems are a viable mainstream option in 10 years, and to place solar energy systems on 50 percent of new homes in 13 years. In related news, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced last week he will propose nearly $95 million in the state budget to create the Governor’s Research and Innovation Initiative, which provides funding for major renewable energy projects along with advanced research in the biotech and nanotech sectors. The major components of the Initiative would provide $30 million in lease revenue bonds for the Helios Project, an initiative by the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to create sustainable, carbon neutral sources of energy, including super efficient solar energy technology. The budget would also provide $40 million in lease revenue bonds to the University of California for UC Berkeley or UC San Diego in the event that either wins a global competition for the British Petroleum (BP) Energy Biosciences Institute grant. The campuses were among only five universities in the world that were invited to compete for the$500 million grant to build and operate an Energy Biosciences Institute, which will be dedicated to long term research into the production of renewable and alternative fuels.