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Builders Grapple With New California Solar Panel Requirements

New regulations would require newly built homes to all have solar panel arrays, starting in 2020. Many builders are not optimistic.

Posted: May. 14, 2018 6:27 PM

YREKA, Calif. — A new California regulation that would require new homes to include solar panel arrays starting in 2020 has many builders worried about the real cost.

Based on a 30-year mortgage, the California Energy Commission estimates that the new standards will add about $40 per month in cost for the average home, but save consumers $80 per month on heating, cooling, and lighting bills—or $19,000 per home over 30 years.

Then there's the savings for the environment. The State of California says that adding these solar panels in 2020 willl equate to taking 115,000 cars off the road by trading off energy produced through fossil fuels.

Yet, even though the savings are potentially great, there's one big problem with the costs—they are all upfront. The California Energy Commission has said that the addition of solar panels should cost the average family $10,000.

"It's harder for the person that's just getting into the market. A person who's just looking to buy a house or actually looking to build a house, it just becomes untouchable," said Duane Kegg, owner of Siskiyou Builders Exchange.

Robert O'Gorman, a homebuilder in Yreka, thinks that upfront cost could begin driving prospective homeowners away from California entirely, in search of more affordable housing. Or, it might cause a rush of buyers before the regulation goes into effect.

"A lot of the engineers will say 'hey, get your plan submitted this year so you don't have to go through next year's code requirements,'" said O'Gorman.

O'Gorman estimated that adding solar to the house that he's building right now—his own—will cost him $30,000.

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