Republican Mayor Leads City To First-Ever Solar Energy Mandate

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris and SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive marking the installation of solar panels at a baseball stadium. (Photo credit: Solar Home & Business Journal)

On Tuesday, the City Council of Lancaster, California approved a mandate that most new homes must produce solar energy. This is the first such mandate in the nation.

Lancaster is a suburb in northeast Los Angeles county, and this new rule had no bigger advocate that Mayor Rex Parris, who is a Republican. He has long sought to make Lancaster “the solar energy capital of the world.”

Lancaster isn’t your prototypical hotbed of greenie environmentalists. Yet Mayor Parris said the rule wasn’t controversial: “It serves as a model. Here I am in an extremely conservative area, and there was almost no push-back.”

The mandate requires for any new home construction permit issued after January 1, 2014, builders must meet a minimum number of kilowatts of solar energy produced per house. This gives builders flexibility, allowing a larger solar installation on a few homes rather than a cookie-cutter solution to every home. The rate would be 1 to 1.5 kilowatts of solar per 7,000 square foot lot. Rural homes on 100,000 square feet must have at least 1.5 kilowatts. Prospective home buyers will be able to see the solar system offered in the builder’s model home.

Some home builders are not happy because they see this as something that puts them at a disadvantage with their main competitor: the resale market. But the mandate does not necessarily mean that a project cannot move forward if the builder doesn’t want to install solar panels: they can “choose to meet the solar energy generation requirement off-site by providing evidence of purchasing solar energy credits from another solar-generating development located within the City.”

And Parris says that the opposition just part of the process: “I understand the building industry is not happy with this. We will just have to take the heat.” The Mayor didn’t pursue this mandate simply to make Lancaster a solar hub. According to E&E News, he also sees climate change as a pressing problem that his fellow Republicans would be smart to acknowledge.

“The one thing we have to recognize is just how desperate this situation is with global warming,” Parris said, “and at the same time recognize that we can actually fix it. We have tremendous capability if we just have the courage to do it.” …

“The Republican Party is in a quandary because the polling shows that the voters support environmental protection. It’s the leadership that doesn’t,” Parris said. “You’d have to be a moron to discount global warming. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t recognize it’s occurring.”

The U.S. faces increased threats of drought and other impacts of climate change. 2013 is expected to bring more drought. The National Drought Early Warning Outlook said last month that California’s drought forecast was particularly alarming:

California has the greatest chance of abnormally dry weather, said David Miskus, a seasonal forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center, part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,

Parts of California were just beginning to recover from drought at the end of last year, Miskus said. The northern half of the state had been mostly drought-free of late but now a drought seems likely to develop.

“They started out so well, in November and December they had really good strong rains, they had good snow packs in the Sierra Nevadas,” Miskus told Reuters after the outlook’s unveiling. By February, however, conditions were dry, and this is typically California’s wettest month, he said.

Fortunately, Lancaster is not the only city in California making solar and other renewables a priority: the state leads the nation in solar projects, solar megawatts installed, and the average cost per watt of solar.

18 Responses to Republican Mayor Leads City To First-Ever Solar Energy Mandate

  1. BillD says:

    We need more GOP policians who say “You’d have to be a moran to discount global warming. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t recognise that it’s ocurring.”

    Yesterday I got a postcard from the heartland institute telling me that they are sending me a free copy of a new book “The mad, mad world of climatism” by Steve Goreham. Must have been a great seller since they are sending it out for free. I evidently got on their mailing list when I protested against the “climate scientists = mass murders advertisement.” I commented on some of the reviews on Amazon that were 90% excellent among the majority of readers who bought the climate denial claims of the book “hook, line and sinker.” I want to at least read some of the book before posting my own review.

  2. Sasparilla says:

    Nice article, good to see this requirement is starting and will grow to other areas over time…

    Oh yeah, Nobel Prize Winning President, why don’t you work on making this a phased in mandate (through say 2020 with sunny places first) over the country for new housing like they did here?

  3. Moonshine Fox says:

    Because the President doesn’t have that kind of authority? Something like that would be done at the Mayoral, or at most State, levels. It is good to see a Mayor step up and take the first steps on such a project. We need more Republicans like him and they may just become a liked party again.

  4. DRT says:

    Why not mandate passive house standards for all new construction and major retrofits. Home owners might get to sell most of the electricity their solar panels generate.

  5. Look for deniers to invent “solar cell syndrome” sometime soon.

  6. robert says:

    “You’d have to be a moron to discount global warming. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t recognize it’s occurring.”

    Hmmm. He apparently doesn’t know any of his party’s leadership, or most of it’s rank and file …

  7. Sasparilla says:

    Well yeah, but the President doesn’t have authority to enact a carbon tax or Cap-N-Trade on his own either, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be out trying like mad to make any of these things happen.

    I like this idea at the federal level, would probably have a much better chance of passing than other pure climate change stuff – which admittedly still isn’t much of a chance – and would start making a difference very quickly.

    Should be a Proposition in CA for the next election at the state level.

  8. Sasparilla says:

    Great idea DRT, done right they’d make money with the bloody things. Do passive standards and mandatory solar and watch the summer afternoon power spike in the U.S. just melt away over time (and associated fossil fuel peaker plants & emissions).

  9. Mike Roddy says:

    Good job, Mayor Parris, it’s nice to see some leadership for a change.

    Meanwhile, in West Los Angeles, few houses have solar (even though most can easily afford it) because they don’t like the look of the panels on their roof. We have an inner problem, as well as an outer one.

  10. Dano says:

    Why not mandate passive house standards for all new construction and major retrofits.

    Because that would reduce the percentage of tree canopy coverage in cities. That would be a net negative overall, as temperatures would rise, pollution would increase, aesthetics decrease, stormwater increase, and all the other negatives that come with decreased tree canopy.



  11. DRT says:

    Sorry, I don’t follow. Why would that reduce the percentage of tree canopy coverage? Clearly there’s lots I don’t know about passive house standards. Can you explain or point to a reference please.

  12. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yep, appearances have replaced any sense of substantive value but hang on – aren’t they big and shiny and you can put up more than your neighbours? ME

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The morons we have always with us. As we do the really pernicious species-the moron manipulators. It is good to see an honest, rational, humane Republican (to quote Basil Fawlty, ‘We should have him stuffed’)and I do not doubt others of this endangered species yet exist, hiding away in the undergrowth lest the Tea Party ‘Mad Hatters’ hunt them down. The tide is visibly turning, but is it in time?

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Nobel so-called Peace Prize has been a very bad joke for a long, long time.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Mandating passive house design would save money, while making homes more comfortable dwellings. That hits electricity utility profits and those of the manufacturers of air-conditioning and the builders of McMansions. There’s the first level of resistance, from vested interests who want neither to lessen profit growth nor to go out of business entirely because they cannot build the new houses. More pernicious, however, is the ideological and psychological resistance to living more simply and within the natural limitations of place, season and climate. That offends the hominid supremacists who have always seen Nature as an adversary, to be subdued and ‘tamed’. That hubris is allied in many on the Right with the schoolyard inability to acknowledge that you are wrong, and the enemy, in this case the viscerally despised ‘Greenies’ are, and always were, correct.

  16. DRT says:

    Maybe we can pit the Insulation Industrial Complex against the electric utilities, AC makers and McMansion builders.

    If homes were priced with total cost of ownership in mind so the cost of heating and cooling for 30 years was factored in, then I think the passive houses would be cheaper…and perhaps people would recognize this and want to buy them.

  17. Ross says:

    Solar panels are prohibited by many home owners associations.

    I think that might change when houses in “solar friendly HOAs” are worth more.

  18. I believe what Dano was saying is that in order to have a “passive solar house”, some lots would have to remove trees that block the sun. I agree that this is good point, but I’m sure that an intelligently constructed regulation could get around that.