Solar in San Francisco

Way back in 2016, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Better Roof Requirements for Renewable Energy. It was legislation that made San Francisco the first major city in the country to mandate solar panels on new construction – residential and commercial – ten stories and shorter. The law went into effect into 2017, piggybacking on an existing California law that required new buildings to set aside 15 percent of roof space as “solar ready,” i.e. clear and out of the shade. But the Better Roofs ordinance took things a big step further.

From Mandated Preparation to Mandated Installation

In a decisive step toward the city’s goal of completely fulfilling local electrical demand with renewable energy, the Better Roofs ordinance requires the actual installation of solar energy in some form. That could mean panels that generate electricity or heating units powered by solar energy. Either way, the idea is to grow energy sources that don’t contribute to climate change, an issue worrisome to the city by the bay.

From the legislation:

“As a coastal city located on the tip of a peninsula, San Francisco is vulnerable to sea level rise, and human activities releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere cause increases in worldwide average temperature, which contribute to melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of ocean water — resulting in rising sea levels.

“San Francisco is already experiencing the repercussions of excessive CO2 emissions as rising sea levels threaten the City’s shoreline and infrastructure, have caused significant erosion, increased impacts to infrastructure during extreme tides, and have caused the City to expend funds to modify the sewer system.”

Love It or Hate It

At the time, reactions were mixed. Local environmentalists rejoiced, while developers were resigned to yet another hurdle in a city that makes construction quite the challenge. Others were left to wonder whether the amount of planned new builds under ten stories would make much of a difference.

Whether or not mandated solar is the answer – and the state of California seems to believe it absolutely is – I’ll leave you with this. Solar can be downright gorgeous! Take a look at this round-up of some truly stunning solar applications – proof that solar energy panels can be as beautiful as they are functional.

CalBRE #01224570

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