San Francisco Law Requires Solar Panels On All New Buildings

The rule makes San Francisco the first large metropolitan area to pass a solar panel requirement.

Last week, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to take a strong stand on solar by passing a rule requiring all new buildings to be fitted with solar panels.

The city's Board of Supervisors passed the rule requiring all buildings under 10 stories to have the panels in an effort to help the city reach its goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. The rule, unanimously approved, builds on an existing state law that requires all new buildings to have 15 percent of the roof be "solar ready." Essentially, the roof must be designed in a way that it is exposed to the sun for potential future solar panel installation with no obtrusions to create shade in that area. The new rule requires that any commercial or residential buildings in the city of San Francisco — the law is statewide — take the next step and install either solar photovoltaic or solar water panels.

“By increasing our use of solar power, San Francisco is once again leading the nation in the fight against climate change and the reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who drafted the rule. “Activating underutilized roof space is a smart and efficient way to promote the use of solar energy and improve our environment. We need to continue to pursue aggressive renewable energy policies to ensure a sustainable future for our city and our region.”

The rule makes San Francisco the first large metropolitan area to pass a solar panel requirement, but other smaller cities like Lancaster and Sebastopol already have similar laws. These types of laws have also been enacted in Europe. 

This landmark legislation will take effect in January of 2017 with the support of the Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Commission on the Environment, the U.S. Green Buildings Council, the Building Inspection Commission and Brightline Defense. It also feeds into a wide trend of increased amounts of solar panels and options for renewable energy now available to consumers.

As for San Francisco, after enacting this rule, the Board of Supervisors is looking into how builders and consumers can install "living roofs." A living roof is completely covered in plants and growth, which helps to naturally insulate the building, help mitigate the heat island effect and — added bonus — create a more aesthetically pleasing roof.

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