Solar Homes Bill Passes California Senate

The California State Senate passed a bill that will require builders of new housing developments to install solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems on a percentage of new homes beginning in 2006. Such a requirement will help make the solar energy systems cost effective and help address anticipated energy shortages while preventing air pollution.

Sacramento, California – May 19, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] If the new bill (SB 1652) makes its way through the California legislature unscathed, developers building more than 25 homes at a time could be required to install a certain amount of solar photovoltaic (PV) power on some of the homes. “Solar power is much more cost-effective when included in the construction of new homes,” said Senator Kevin Murray (D-26), author of the bill. “This bill simply requires that builders phase in solar systems during construction, reducing energy costs and air pollution at the same time.” SB 1652 originally articulated a 25 percent minimum standard. The Senate Housing Committee voted a couple weeks ago to remove that percentage for the time being, approving language requiring a minimum standard beginning in 2006. Solar power works best when it is needed most: during summer afternoons. SB 1652 would offset thousands of pounds of pollution during the smoggiest months of the year and prevent the need to build new natural gas power plants. “Several large scale housing developments have already begun offering new solar homes,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Energy Advocate for Environment California, sponsor of the bill. “By creating a larger market, this bill will help drive down the cost of PV making it available to the mainstream homebuyer.” California remains dependent on non-renewable energy resources such as fossil fuel and nuclear power plants for 90% of its electricity. While the state has recently required utility companies to double renewable energy purchases by 2017, less than 1% of the state’s electricity will come from solar power in the coming years. “Our over-reliance on polluting power plants is what got us into an energy crisis in the first place,” added Del Chiaro. “Solar homes not only save money and protect our health, they can also help stabilize California’s electric grid.” Approximately 135,000 single-family homes are built each year in California. A 25 percent minimum standard would bring about 65 megawatts of solar energy, equivalent to the size of power plant and three times California’s current solar market. SB 1652 is similar to last year’s SB 289, also authored by Murray and sponsored by Environment California. SB 289 stalled in the Senate last year. SB 1652 will be voted on next on the Senate Floor. If it goes all the way to the Governor’s desk, the bills stands a good chance at becoming law. During his successful bid for the governor’s seat, Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated his support for similar measures.
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