On February 23rd, Scott Wiener, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, proposed new solar power legislation that, if passed, would be historic. The legislation would make San Francisco the first major city in America to require that solar panels be installed on new commercial and residential buildings. Existing state law (Title 24 Energy Standards) requires that 15 percent of the roof area of newly-constructed buildings be “solar ready.” (This requirement applies only to buildings of 10 stories or less.) The term “solar ready” signifies that 15 percent of a roof’s area must be free of shade or other obstructions so that solar panels may be installed there at some time in the future.
The proposed legislation, however, goes further, specifying that the 15 percent solar-ready area must actually have a renewable energy source installed. That source can take the form of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels or a solar water system. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment supports the proposed law.
Said Supervisor Wiener, “To fight climate change and achieve a clean energy future, we need to take decisive steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. In a dense, urban environment, we need to be smart and efficient about how we maximize the use of our space to achieve goals like promoting renewable energy and improving our environment.”
There may be a possible exemption to the solar energy requirement, according to another piece of legislation that Wiener intends to propose shortly. If a new building includes a so-called “living roof,” that building is not required to have a solar roof. Living roofs, also known as green roofs, are those which are partly or completely covered in vegetation. Such structures serve to improve biodiversity, provide insulation, reduce stormwater and sequester carbon.
Both former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome and current mayor Ed Lee support a policy in which San Francisco meets 100 percent of its energy needs through renewable sources.
“The Better Roofs ordinance continues to push the City as a national leader on solar policy,” said Josh Arce, former President of the San Francisco Commission on the Environment, and community liaison for Laborers Local 261, which trains solar jobseekers. “This legislation will expand our efforts to cover San Francisco rooftops with solar panels and tackle climate change, while also creating good jobs for our community.”