San Francisco introduces historic solar power ordinance
On April 19, 2016, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to mandate that rooftop solar panels be installed on new construction buildings. The mandate, called the Better Roofs Ordinance, has been issued by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and aligns with the city's goal to eventually become 100 percent reliant on renewable energy as its source of electricity.
As supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced this ordinance, explained in a statement, California state law already requires that every small and mid-sized new construction building has at least 15 percent of its rooftop designated as "solar ready." Essentially, solar ready means there is nothing blocking the roof's exposure to the sun. The Better Roofs Ordinance is a logical next step as San Francisco seeks to make sure solar power is actually harnessed on these solar-ready rooftops.
"To fight climate change and achieve a clean energy future, we need to take decisive steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels," said Wiener in a statement. "This legislation will activate our roofs, which are an under-utilized urban resource, to make our City more sustainable and our air cleaner."
Wiener went on to emphasize the importance of prioritizing energy efficiency in a densely packed urban area.
According to Business Insider, the ordinance goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. From that date forward, the type of new construction buildings that were once only required to have their roofs prepared for a future solar energy installations will be required to implement them. Owners will be allowed to choose between installing solar water or solar photovoltaic panels.
While San Francisco is the first major city to do something like this, there are two towns in the state, Sebastopol and Lancaster, that have taken comparable measures to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
Wiener is also working on new legislation that loosens the Better Roofs Ordinance requirements by allowing the roofs on new construction buildings to be used as living roofs rather than solar energy installations. A living roof, also known as a green roof, is a roof on which vegetation grows. According to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, green roofs can improve air quality, provide increased insulation that decreases the energy needed to heat and cool a building, reduce rainwater runoff, create more local jobs and much more.
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