In Lancaster, California, net-zero energy is taking on a whole new meaning. The city of 150,000, about an hour north of Los Angeles, will require most new homes to include photovoltaic panels as it tries to becomes the first city to produce more solar electricity than the city consumes on a daily basis.
According to an account in The New York Times, Lancaster will need to add another 126 megawatts of capacity to the 39 MW it already has, and the 50 MW now under construction, to meet the goal.
Lancaster’s mayor, a lawyer named R. Rex Parris, has been instrumental in pushing the city toward a solar future. The pro-business Republican has teamed up with manufacturers and installers, including the Chinese firm BYD and developer KB Home, and says his own house has the biggest residential solar array in town.
One of Lancaster’s largest PV projects was for its school system. After rejecting one proposal as too expensive, the city created its own municipal utility, bought more than 32,000 solar panels, and installed 7.5 MW of PV on 25 schools.
New homes must include PV systems
According to a post at GreenTechMedia, the zoning changes approved by the Lancaster City Council require solar panels with a capacity of between 1 kW and 1.5 kW on houses built on lots of 7,000 sq. ft. or more. Rural homes on lots of up to 100,000 sq. ft. must have a system rated at 1.5 kW. Developers of subdivisions will be permitted to build larger, common systems.
Among other requirements, a builder’s model home has to include the type of solar system that will be offered, the post said.
Parris apparently has his sights set on more than just solar. He also would like to see the city require all new homes be built to LEED standards, and that all new houses have gray-water systems.
According to GreenTechMedia, the mayor said, “The salvation of this planet, if it is not already too late, will be from the bottom up, and there is no reason Lancaster can’t be the example for the world.”