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California: New Homes Must Have Solar Power

Sacramento, California —(Map)

In early May, California decided that new homes built after 2020 must have solar power. It is the first US state to make a rule like this. The decision could have big effects.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) is the group that studies and makes plans for the way California uses energy. They have said that starting in 2020, new homes in California must have solar panels. The idea still needs to be passed by the group that controls California’s building rules.

Installing solar panels on a roof.
Installing solar panels on a roof.
(Source: Wayne National Forest, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Normally, houses use power from an electric company. These companies usually burn gas, oil, or coal to create the electricity. Making electricity this way creates pollution and makes global warming  worse.

Solar panels use sunlight to create electricity. When a house has solar power and it is able to make more electricity than it uses, the electricity goes back into the power system. This “clean” electricity does not cause extra pollution. It also can allow home owners to make money from the electric company.

Home with solar panels
New houses in California will need to have solar panels, starting in 2020.
(Source: Gray Watson (, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Adding solar panels to houses will make the houses cost about $10,000 more. The CEC thinks that home owners will have to pay about $40 more a month for a solar powered house. But they will save about $80 each month because of the solar panels.

Supporters of the idea say that home owners will save about $19,000 over 30 years because they will not be paying as much for electricity.

Large solar array
California already gets about 16% of its electricity from solar power.
(Source: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Jeremiah Handeland, via Wikimedia Commons.)

California already gets about 16% of its electricity from solar power. The state’s website on solar power shows that over 300,000 California homes already have some kind of solar power.

The rule does not affect houses that already exist. It also wouldn’t matter for new houses that are too small or have too much shade.

The new rule is good news for companies that make or install solar panels. California builds about 80,000 new homes each year. Starting in 2020, most of those will have solar power.

Men carrying solar panels for installation.
The new rule will be good for businesses that work with solar panels.
It could also lead other states to make similar rules.
(Source: Oregon Department of Transportation, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Many people think that California’s new rule will make solar panels cheaper. That could make it easier for other people in other states to add solar power to their houses. It could also encourage other states to start similar plans. As one person said, “You can bet every state will be watching to see what happens.”


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