Nobody enjoys reading building codes and mandates but they are something that every building owner needs to be familiar with. Knowing the mandates for your area can help you maintain your buildings and protect your investment by ensuring everything is up to code. The 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards are designed to get more solar power installations without inconveniencing too many people.
What You Need to Know About the New California Solar Mandate
The key points of the new mandate are highlighted below:
- Not all buildings are covered by the new solar mandate. Multi-family homes fewer than three stories in height are included but industrial, commercial and high-rise residential buildings are not. New climate-zone specifics are also in place now, stating that common areas in all multi-family buildings are no longer included in the sizing calculations for energy usage that gets compensated.
- It has long been a challenge to recoup money spent on solar installation for building owners. The CEC estimates new construction of an up-to-code building will increase by $9,500 but you will save $19,000 on energy and maintenance costs. If multiple buildings are constructed within the same neighborhood, however, labor and transportation costs can be combined which will lower your installation cost per unit in that area.
- Energy usage versus energy generation is often charted on what is known as the ‘duck curve’. The chart typically shows that during the day the potential for generation is greater than the demand and in the evening more energy is needed and less is produced. This new solar mandate includes compliance credit to reduce the impact of this curve. By installing batteries during the day, power can be stored during times of high generation and used later when little is being produced but demands are high.
- Solar installation now needs to be part of any new development and any new projects. Previously, there was not much incentive for this, but now that there is, owners need to factor in installation and maintenance costs when planning and designing buildings and rental pricing. You should expect some resistance by renters, as they do not feel they should cover increased costs, so be creative when accounting for solar system needs and time to recoup the costs to keep everyone happy.
- Solar systems will lose functionality without proper maintenance and the best way to ensure maintenance is kept up is through customer education. This new code makes it mandatory that an update to the building owner be provided regarding the system is operating. These updates are essential and builders of these new solar-powered buildings must include warranty and maintenance costs in their plans to ensure everything is accurate.
- Flexibility is essential since not all buildings are the same. Using community solar gardens or farms as opposed to individual rooftop leads to a reduction in labor costs. The tenants, however, will not benefit from this net solar metering. There are rules in place regarding whether or not the roof can sustain solar panels, and if they are not able to support the panels for any reason, builders are given the option trade-offs and storage credit.
- Local authorities can and do make codes more stringent, so you should be prepared to check with them when you want to build with solar panels. If they are able to provide evidence that specific changes to the code will reduce energy consumption, the CEC will allow their changes to be made to an existing mandate. While this is great in terms of flexibility, it also means that you need to verify all designs with local authorities to ensure you will be up to local code.