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San Francisco Mandates Solar on New Buildings

New buildings in San Francisco will soon be required to install solar panels.

The solar mandate, adopted unanimously by the city’s Board of Supervisors this week, makes San Francisco the first major US city to require solar on new construction, according to supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced the ordinance.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, all new commercial and residential buildings with 10 floors or less must install solar photovoltaic, solar water panels or a combination of the two. Existing buildings are exempt.

Two former San Francisco environment commissioners writing in a San Francisco Examiner column say the mandated is expected to add 50,000 solar panels and avert 26.3 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Two smaller California cities, Lancaster and Sebastopol, have similar mandates in effect. New York is also considering mandatory solar installations on some of its municipal buildings.

The new San Francisco ordinance builds on an existing state law that requires 15 percent of rooftop area on all new buildings with 10 or fewer floors to be “solar ready,” meaning that the roof is unshaded and free of obstructions for future solar panel use.

“By increasing our use of solar power, San Francisco is once again leading the nation in the fight against climate change and the reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels,” Wiener said in a statement. “Activating underutilized roof space is a smart and efficient way to promote the use of solar energy and improve our environment. We need to continue to pursue aggressive renewable energy policies to ensure a sustainable future for our city and our region.”

Weiner says the legislation will move San Francisco towards its goal of meeting 100 percent of the city’s electricity demand with renewable energy.

The US Green Building Council endorsed the ordinance.

To estimate the solar mandate’s impact, the The San Francisco Department of Environment looked at construction projects in the pipeline in the third quarter of 2014 and found the 200 projects with solar installations would “avoid over 26,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year,” the San Francisco Examiner reports.

The newspaper says the city is also considering legislation that would require living roofs on new buildings in an effort to reduce stormwater runoff and pollution.

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