The solar power mandate is on the horizon; what should homebuilders expect?
Builder and Developer: Could you first provide some basic details about the changes to Title 24 being enacted January 1st that may most affect builders?
Dan Dunmoyer: So, title 24 covers everything in the code world for homebuilding, but the big issue is in Section 6, which is on the energy codes and that’s where the solar energy mandate is contained. And, as our code expert Bob Ramer says, that’s the biggest change to the California codes in the last 40 years as far as impact on a builder.
Our solar power mandate goes into effect in California on January 1st. It’s often referred to as a solar roof mandate, but it’s not, it’s a solar power mandate. The reason I make that distinction is you can comply with it by putting solar on the roof but you can also comply by purchasing solar from a community solar source.
So if a utility or a private party wants to create a solar farm and sell solar energy, you can comply, as long as you’re using solar power – whether on the roof or from a third- party vendor 20 miles away from your home. And then you can also comply if you lease your roof to a third party who can put solar on your roof and share the energy with you. So you have three basic mechanisms.
That’s what goes into effect January 1st, and that’s what’s going to have a pretty noteworthy effect on builders.
B&D: What advice do you have for builders who are trying to prepare for the new changes?
DD: There are two things.
One, it doesn’t go into effect until January 1st. If you pull a permit before January 1st, you don’t have to comply with the solar mandate. You can voluntarily do it, but you’re not required to. So we expect in some of the projects that are already midstream for permits to be pulled. It’s not because builders want to run away from putting solar on, it’s because they may not have engineered their housing for solar. They may not have put in the other conduits or roofing supports necessary, so we do want to make sure this transition can move methodically.
I think the second component is to really read the regulations carefully. So many people refer to the solar roof mandate. One, it’s not a mandate on the roof. As I mentioned, you can purchase it through community solar. But it’s also not a mandate that you have to buy it on the roof, because you can lease it.
There are third parties that will come to you, the homebuyer, and say “Would you like to have solar on your roof? I’d like to lease your roof. For 20 years, I will lease your rooftop, I will put the solar on, I will keep it clean, and I will guarantee you no roof leaks. In exchange, I’ll give you 25-30 percent of the solar power. The remainder comes to me, and I’ll sell it to the utility industry and that’s how I pay for it. But effectively, for 20 years, I’ll lease your roof.” After 20 years you can buy it back, say take it off my roof and repair it so there’s no leaks, or whatever you want. But in the meantime, the cost to the homebuyer is very minimal.
That’s another option that most people aren’t aware of. For about $1500-2000 instead of the $10,000, you can enter into this lease relationship. The consumer doesn’t get 100 percent of the energy and power, but does get 25-30 percent and it really is at minimal to no cost to the consumer. Effectively, you’re leasing your rooftop as a means for collecting solar energy.
All that to say, you have multiple options.
So as a homebuilder, you should look at those options for your customers and pick the one that works best for you, your geographic region, and your local utility. Municipal utilities may have different price points than a publicly traded utility. If you do your homework, you can find a price point that we believe is much more manageable.
B&D: Can you speak to any resources that may help builders with the initial cost of adding solar or challenges with this transition?
DD: We’re more than willing to address any questions people might have in this space as we go to implement it, especially on any technical fronts. One of the resources we have is a gentleman by the name of Bob Ramer, who is our Chief Technical Officer here. He’d be more than willing to address any questions as builders go to implement the solar energy requirement.
We’re here to help, and we really want to make sure we can help.
The California Energy Commission is putting out information on this, so their website would be a good place, as well.
If you go to our website, www.cbia.org, under “Codes and Resources,” there’s some information there that people can find, and we’ll continue to update that. So, it’s a good place to go if you want to get a better understanding of what’s going on. We’ll be putting some more materials there to help homebuilders look at the options they have to comply with this requirement.