Are net-zero energy cities the future of sustainability?
What would it mean if every newly constructed California home was energy independent? In 2014, the City of Lancaster, California was the first city to require solar panels on new homes. In doing so, it pioneered a policy that has since been adopted by several other California cities, including San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Sebastopol. And now, the town has set its sights on becoming the country’s first net-zero energy city, producing as much energy as it consumes.
Lancaster’s geographical location in the western Mojave Desert offers it an abundance of sunshine. Nearly every public building from its City Hall to the baseball stadium is powered by the sun. Its 160,000-member community is committed to energy sustainability.
Building upon its pioneering 2014 policy, last week the Lancaster City Council took steps forward by adopting a new ordinance requiring new homes to have solar panels generating two watts of energy for every square foot. Not every building will be able to support that much solar, the Council acknowledged. Therefore builders also have the option of paying $1.40 per square feet of constructed home or a combination of solar panels and fee.
The City is currently conducting a feasibility study and will have to gain approval from the California Energy Commission before implementation, but its goal is to put the policy into effect by the end of 2017. A logical next step is concurrent energy storage integration.
“The Zero Net Energy Home Ordinance expands upon Lancaster’s residential solar ordinance so that new homes built in Lancaster now will not only be environmentally friendly, but have a zero-net impact on our environment, while reducing energy costs for the homeowners,” said Republican Mayor R. Rex Parris in a statement. “This is a great stride in Lancaster’s journey to become a zero-net city.”
Other experts point out that policies such as this can have a streamlining effect on the solar adoption process by shifting the initial investment to home developers. This means that equipment costs can be folded into the mortgage and buyers can move in to a home that generates its own electricity.
However, members of the energy industry concur across the board that a net zero energy policy would need refinement prior to significant expansion. Is a net-zero energy plan for new construction something that you think the policy makers should consider for statewide implementation?
Lancaster, California, Aims for Net-Zero Energy, by Laura Sanchez, Forester Daily News, February 27, 2017.