Lancaster may not have the powerful film industry of Hollywood, the thriving arts and sports scene of downtown Los Angeles, or the wealthy beach culture of Malibu. But there is one thing the desert city of 155,000 has that its fellow Los Angeles County cities don't: a groundbreaking proposal for solar power.
Mayor R. Rex Parris recently announced that he was proposing an update to Lancaster's building code that would require all new single-family homes built in the city to have a minimum 1-kilowatt solar power system. The update would take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
The language for the proposed update to the city's residential building plan reads, "The purpose of the solar energy system standards is to encourage investment in solar energy on all parcels in the city, while providing guidelines for the installation of those systems that are consistent with the architectural and building standards of the City…. [and] to provide standards and procedures for builders of new homes to install solar energy systems in an effort to achieve greater usage of alternative energy."
According to the draft of the proposed change, residential homes built on lots of 7,000 square feet or greater are required to have 1- to 1.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic systems. Rural homes on lots up to 100,000 square feet need 1.5-kilowatt systems. Systems can be ground- or roof-mounted installations, and the provision would cover basic rules for each type of installation. (Multifamily dwellings could use rooftop solar or a system built on a shade structure.) Builders must include solar systems in model homes, and each phase of a residential development must meet the required solar minimum.
However, the plan does offer some flexibility. Builders can install larger systems on certain homes in a subdivision to meet that subdivision's minimum average of solar use, thereby covering the requirement for other homes that don't have solar. Developers can also opt out of the requirement by purchasing solar credits from another development in Lancaster.
Mayor Parris has stated in the past that he foresees Lancaster as the "solar energy capital of the world." A citywide solar program was founded in 2010 and Lancaster is home to the eSolar Sierra SunTower solar plant and is part of the Antelope Valley, the site of several more solar power plants.
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