California to make solar mandatory for new homes starting 2020

Solar power has been around for years, even decades, but it has never caught on in the consumer market for two reasons. One is affordability, the other is a lack of a bigger push. California might be providing the latter if the state's Energy Commission gets what it wants in Wednesday's vote. If it does, all new houses and small condos and apartments applying for a permit starting 2020 will be required to have solar panels.

It won't be a blanket rule, however. It only applies to buildings up to three stories high. Exceptions can also be made for homes shaded by trees or buildings or whose roofs are too small to install solar panels on. Nonetheless, solar installation companies should see a huge leap in admittedly forced adoption, which should hopefully translate to reduction in carbon footprint in the long run.

Naturally, there is some push back but, amusingly enough, it's coming even from advocates of solar power. Home builders are worried that the government is moving too fast and would drive home prices beyond reach for many buyers. Nonetheless, they will be ready by mid-2020.

Some environmentalists, on the other hand, find the proposed rules to be insufficient and full of compromises. Specifically, they are advocating for rules that push for "zero net energy", which would mean producing enough solar power to completely remove the need for natural gas consumption. It was, after all, the state government's previous goal.

Ideal as it may sound, state officials and some experts claim it isn't feasible just yet. While solar might be enough to compensate for daytime energy consumption, it won't be as effective at night. That's when some gas-powered plants will have to be powered up to supply the demand, which, in turn, would only boost carbon emissions further.

SOURCE: The Orange County Register