All new single family homes in California will have solar panels on the roof starting in 2020, a move that will help reduce emissions of carbon, but will add to the cost of a new house in a state where affordable housing is already hard to come by.
The new rule, approved by regulators Wednesday, will also apply to small apartment buildings up to three stories.
Currently about one in five homes has solar panels on the roof and uses the energy to create electricity.
With the unanimous vote from the California Energy Commission, the state becomes the first in the nation to require solar panels on new construction.
The commission acknowledges the requirement will add to the cost of building new homes, estimating it will increase that cost by just under $10,000. Estimates vary, however, with some homebuilders saying the requirement could add as much as $30,000 to the cost of a new home.
The commission estimates the savings, however, on electricity could cancel out the added cost, but it take a long time – likely as much as 30 years to realize nearly $10,000 in savings. In hotter parts of the state, such as in the desert, the savings would be greater. In cooler or cloudier areas, such as in the northern mountains, or in the San Francisco Bay area – where housing is extremely expensive already – homeowners wouldn’t save as much.