Malibu Ponders Requiring Solar On New Buildings

Following on the heels of Lancaster and Sebastopol, a third California city – one famous for its sunshine, the coastal burg of Malibu – is looking into a solar mandate for new construction.

According to an agenda item for this Monday’s City Council meeting [PDF], Mayor Joan House and Councilman Lou La Monte “are requesting the Council consider directing staff to research and bring back a staff report on the feasibility of the City requiring all new  ommercial development to include the installation of solar panels to provide energy to the buildings.”

Earlier this year. Lancaster, also in Los Angeles County, became the first city in the country to adopt a solar mandate. The Lancaster measure requires that beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, new residential developments in the city must come with an average of at least 1 kilowatt of solar generating capacity per home. (Considering that the average home system is around 4 kW or so, that seems to mean developers could get away with putting solar on a quarter or fewer homes in a subdivision.)

Sebastopol, in Sonoma County, followed with its own measure a few months later. The Sebastopol ordinance   require residential and commercial buildings to include a solar power generating system or pay an in lieu fee. The Sebastopol measure requires more solar — 2 watts of capacity per square foot, so about 5 kW for a 2,500-square-foot home.

Even though the Sebastopol mandate is stronger, as the Rocky Mountain Institute pointed out, Lancaster’s could actually result in more added solar capacity:

Despite Sebastapol’s stronger per-house mandate, the absolute impact is much smaller than that of Lancaster. Two hundred new homes are forecasted to be built in Lancaster this year, which means that at minimum 200–300 kW of solar will come online in Lancaster as a result of new buildings, and likely even more if housing developers find that there is strong demand for solar among new-home buyers in the area. In Sebastopol only 16 new homes were built per year in both 2010 and 2011, so assuming that trend continues, that works out to around 70 kW (again, at the mandated minimum) of solar coming online in Sebastopol as a result of new buildings.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

2 Comments

  • Reply September 23, 2013

    de co

    Lancaster, in Los Angeles County, became the first city in the country using solar authorization. Lancaster measures to require 1 January 2014, the new residential development in the city must be equipped with at least one kilowatt of solar power capacity each

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    • Reply September 23, 2013

      Pete Danko

      Did you read the third paragraph of our story?

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