Santa Monica Makes Rooftop Solar Panels Mandatory

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — In April, Santa Monica City Council passed the ordinance mandating rooftop solar systems be built on all new buildings, residential and commercial, in the city. Santa Monica is the fifth municipality in California to make solar installations mandatory, following on the heels of San Francisco. Other cities that made the change include Lancaster, Sebastopol in 2013 and Culver City in 2008.

With a quick turnaround of 30 days, the solar mandate has already gone into effect with some of the strictest requirements yet. Multifamily dwellings and non-residential buildings, including hotels and motels, are required to install a solar system with a minimum total wattage of two times the square footage of the building. For example, a 4-story building with 10,000 square feet would need a 20-kilowatt system. The only exception to the solar panel requirement is if it is technically infeasible due to lack of available and/or unshaded areas.

For Santa Monica’s 90,000 residents, state law already required 15 percent of rooftops to be solar ready. The council passed this ordinance in order to capitalize on market trends and the falling cost of solar power. The solar market is expected to grow 119 percent in 2016, according to the US Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review.

“Covering our new buildings with renewable energy helps us address the challenge of climate change while ensuring Santa Monica builds cost-effective, resilient properties that maintain value,” said Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez, in a statement.

The cost-benefit ratio is also looking good. While the upfront cost on commercial buildings is estimated to increase by 0.75 percent, the solar panels will reduce long-term electricity costs by an average of 11 percent. Already there were incentives like Southern California Gas Company rebates of up to $500,000 and the 30 percent federal tax credit helps reduce the upfront costs.