Just before Earth Day, the Palo Alto City Council unanimously passed an ordinance mandating that all new single-family residences in the city be “solar ready.”
The new regulation is consistent with the objectives of Palo Alto city government in recent years, which has sought not merely to comply with but to go beyond already strict state energy requirements. The new regulations are part of what the city calls a new “energy reach code,” by which it will require buildings to exceed state energy requirements by 15 percent. The ordinance expands upon the city’s Green Building code of 2008, which at the time was the most stringent in the state. According to the city’s website, the goal of Green Building is “to design, build, and operate a new generation of efficient, environmentally responsible, and healthy buildings.”
The ordinance mandates that all new single-family residences dedicate 500 feet of roof surface to the potential installation of solar panels. Conduits must also be provided by builders to support the future wiring of a solar system. (Exceptions to the rule include, for example, cases in which trees block sunlight from a roof, making harnessing solar energy impossible without eliminating the trees.) The goal is to quadruple local solar power generation by 2023.
The Palo Alto local building code is more aggressive than state requirements, according to a report by the Development Services Department. According to a story in Palo Alto Online, the staff of Peter Pirnejad, the director of the department, estimates that, for a home measuring 2,400 square feet, the new requirements would add about $2,000 to the construction bill, but that this would be cost effective if the cost of installation is amortized over 30 years.
According to the Palo Alto Patch, the city has already cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an estimated 37 percent from 1990 levels.