California passes solar homes bill
The California State Senate has passed a bill requiring builders to install a percentage of solar photovoltaic energy systems in all new housing developments from 2006.The bill will affect any developer building more than 25 homes at a time, and, it is hoped, help make solar energy systems more cost effective.
Author of the bill, Senator Kevin Murray, said: "Solar power is much more cost effective when included in the construction of new homes. This bill simply requires that builders phase in solar systems during construction, reducing energy costs and air pollution at the same time."
Senator Murray claimed that the bill - SB 1652 - would offset thousands of pounds of pollution during the smoggiest months of the year and prevent the need to build new natural gas power plants.
Bernadette Del Chiaro, Energy Advocate for Environment California, sponsor of the bill, said: "Several large scale housing developments have already begun offering new solar homes. By creating a larger market, this bill will help drive down the cost of PV making it available to the mainstream homebuyer."
The State has recently required utility companies to double renewable energy purchases by 2017, but remains dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear power for 90% of its electricity. Energy security is a major issue in California after it, and several other areas in the US, were hit by huge blackouts last year.
"Our over reliance on polluting power plants is what got us into an energy crisis in the first place," added Del Chiaro. "Solar homes not only save money and protect our health, they can also help stabilise California's electric grid."
The bill has to wait for final approval from State Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. During his election bid, Mr Schwarzenegger said he would like to see 50% of new homes fitted with solar PV by 2005 (see related story), and announced plans to cut energy consumption by 20% in the next two years.
By David Hopkins