New homes in Lancaster must produce solar energy

Solar Capital

Lancaster is the first city in the nation to make residential solar mandatory, city officials said.

LANCASTER – The Lancaster City Council Tuesday night adopted a new ordinance which will require residential units built within Lancaster on or after January 1, 2014 to provide an average of 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar-generated electricity per housing unit.

“Lancaster is already strongly committed to furthering green energy and reducing our carbon footprint. In fact, we’ve been nationally and internationally recognized for our solar achievements. However, to truly establish ourselves as the Alternative Energy Capital of the World, we must continue to take a progressive approach. I would like to commend our Planning Commission for this innovative revision of the Residential Zones, which will rapidly advance us towards becoming a net-zero City in record time,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris in a city news release.

The new ordinance is a comprehensive revision of the City’s current Residential Zoning.  The specific section addressing solar energy systems requires new single family residential units to provide solar-generated power at a minimum average of 1 kW per unit (depending on the type of lot). Installation of solar energy systems is not required for all homes within a production subdivision; however, the builder will still be required to meet the aggregate energy generation requirement within the subdivision.

In addition, the ordinance includes revised development standards, additional design and performance measures, infill development incentives, accessory dwelling unit requirements, provisions allowing corner duplexes, and live-work provisions. The ordinance also contains regulations to implement provisions of the City’s adopted Housing Element and current State housing law, which are necessary to comply with State law.

Shortly after the adoption of the General Plan Update in 2009, City staff began initial research on the Residential Zones update. An administrative draft was released in June 2011, followed by a public draft in January 2012. Following several outreach efforts and a series of public hearings, the Planning Commission adopted Resolution No. 13-01 on January 28, 2013, recommending to the City Council approval of the City’s Residential Zoning Ordinance. Other zoning code amendments for implementation of specific actions from the City’s Housing Element are also included in the same resolution.

“The layout and design of buildings and streets comprise a crucial component of any thriving cutting-edge city. As such, to ensure that the City of Lancaster remains at the forefront of innovative and progressive design and technology, the Architectural and Design Commission conducted a comprehensive revision of the City’s previous design guidelines, creating new principles which better reflect the current design approach and philosophy,” said Parris.

Parris said the new ordinance reflects Lancaster’s commitment to becoming a net-zero city.

(Information via press release from the city of Lancaster.)

  14 comments for “New homes in Lancaster must produce solar energy

  1. May 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm

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  2. K
    March 31, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Interestingly, a new home with a 1kW solar panel installation will cut a home’s outside electrical use by 25% or more (based on the average home using 888kW of electricity a month and the solar array working at capacity for 8 hours a day). Lower operating costs for a home are a considerable sales asset – so feasibly, builders could charge a premium for the new homes in Lancaster based on their need for less energy consumption. The overall net gain over the lifetime of the solar array will offset these costs and result in a better fiscal choice for the buyer.

    As for “being forced,” no one is being forced to do anything. This is a simple business choice. No one is forced to build in Lancaster. If a builder chooses to build elsewhere, so be it. Smart builders will see the opportunity and take advantage of the free marketing that they will get by building Eco-friendly homes in the “Alternative Energy Capital” of the world.

    And, frankly, people that are against renewable energy seem to be very short-sighted – to the point of ignorance – about the type of world that they are leaving for their progeny.

  3. Told_ya_so aka Forewarned
    March 30, 2013 at 7:31 am

    More rules and regulations means more higher prices for the consumer. Smh

  4. Michael Rives
    March 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    I have opposed every single solar energy project that the city council has proposed because they all involved solar plants which means fields of solar panels almost all near populated areas such as Lancaster Baptist College and the Soccer Fields. I think the city council should have worked with the solar energy concerns to make solar panels available to all existing and new owners who want them. Rex compares forced solar panels to the city requiring water hookups,etc. I don’t believe they are because solar panels aren’t a necessity. Anyway, as a result of this forced solar energy law, what do you bet that a person buying a new home who doesn’t want panels on his roof will go buy a new home in Palmdale?

  5. EnoughAV
    March 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Next they will require anyone selling a preexisting home to install solar before you can sell it.

  6. Nikolas Malechikos
    March 28, 2013 at 6:54 am

    This is fantastic! Very happy to see such progressive ideas being implemented here in Lancaster. Considering the amount of sunny days we have here in the AV, it is a no-brainer to require solar be installed on all new homes. It’s simply a shame that something like this wasn’t done 10+ years ago.

    However, it certainly does make it easier considering the cost of PV panels has come down so much over the last few years. The benefit to new-home buyers in 2014 and beyond will FAR outweigh any additional costs that the builders are going to be forced to pass on.

    • Jason
      March 28, 2013 at 10:20 am

      So you think its ok for people to be forced to do something?

    • Palmdale Growth Fan
      March 29, 2013 at 10:36 am

      Heck yeah, it’s fantastic! Now all of the builders will decide that trying to build homes in Lancaster is too onerous because of all of the requirements the City is imposing and they will go to Palmdale because the building process is so much simpler! Who says that Rex is anti-Palmdale??

      • Matt K.
        March 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

        One problem with that theory: Palmdale cannot grow anymore due to the fact that it is virtually landlocked by Lancaster to the north and the Sierra Pelona Mountains to the south.

        Palmdale did annex a big chunk of Lancaster north of Plant 42 from Avenue M to Avenue L, and they can build there, but that’s it.

        The vast majority of land available for development in the Antelope Valley is in Lancaster from the A.V. Fairgrounds all of the way north to the border of Rosamond which is Avenue A, and from the South Gate of Edwards AFB on the far east side to the Poppy Reserve on the far west side.

        So, developers can skirt around building in the Lancaster city limits for the time being and build on the diminishing availability of land left in Palmdale city limits, but ultimately, if they want to keep building in the Antelope Valley at all, the vast majority of the land is in Lancaster or potentially available for annex by Lancaster and the developers will have to reckon with Lancaster mandates. Lancaster officials know this and they know that developers would rather comply than not.

        Palmdale will never be allowed to annex Acton because too many powerful people in LA County government live in Acton and don’t want that and that battle was already fought before.

        Palmdale could potentially annex Littlerock, Lake LA and all of the way out to Pearblossom and up into the foothills towards Devil’s Punchbowl and Juniper Hills, but I doubt it will.

        • William
          April 2, 2013 at 9:43 pm

          You didn’t mention Ritter Ranch if that is ever developed.

          The area north of the fairgrounds in Lancaster isn’t very desirable. It is flat, barren, windy desert with no hills or mountains nearby for interest. Plus, there’s the prison nearby.

          If KB Homes builds there, I’m guessing they will find ways to cut costs to make the homes more competitive price wise with smaller homes and lots and probably fewer amenities. Probably fireplaces will be optional, for example.

          In other words, low-end homes. I doubt if many buyers would look for an upscale home in that area in a tract. The shopping would be a Walmart in Quartz Hill with little else around. For commuters, I wouldn’t want to drive an extra 15 or 20 minutes for a small home on a small lot to save on electricity only to spend more money driving

          When I looked at AV homes in the late 80s and early 90s, they offered a lot for the money. But, with subsequent recessions, the builders cut back even when building some larger homes. They cut back from 3-car garages to 2 while making ceilings taller for some reason I don’t understand. I guess it’s cheaper to create the feeling of space without a large footprint. I noticed that roof eaves must be have been the minimum or they would have been too close to the adjacent property line. Attractive architecture gave way to big boxes with little design except maybe some fake stonework in the front elevation or some fake window shutters. And, windows. I really liked the varied use of half round and other window shapes but they’ve gone back to cheaper square and rectangular windows. KB had some of the worst floor-plans I’ve ever seen in newer homes. One model had a living room that was so small, I thought it was an alcove or something. Kitchens had indifferent layouts as far as efficiency even if they were large. One model had wood-grain contact paper covering the end surface of an island cabinet, if I recall.

          There are solar cell roof tiles that cover the entire roof instead of those black glass panels. Now, that would be a great way to go if you could cover the whole roof and still have the home be attractive. I’m not sure how the efficiency compares with the panels, though.

          While I think the solar home is a good plan, like everything else Parris is involved in, we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out in the long run. He does tend to exaggerate everything from the disaster befalling Lancaster if a Palmdale power plant is built to the ‘world class’ status of the BLVD. I guess that’s how he influences juries.

    • March 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      Lemme guess, Nikolas….Democrat? A builder will be able to build the same home in Palmdale, or the County, for thousands less. Yeah, great idea. This is the reason businesses leave an anti-business environment.

      • jeffhre
        August 27, 2013 at 10:05 am

        Yes a cost of thousands more. Yet, the banks are cutting deals in recognition of lower utility bills. With lower utility bills buyers essentially have smaller payments each month. Both energy and home features cost money. But by not paying for energy and getting an upgraded feature, home owners with solar benefit, at about the same monthly payments as non-solar homeowners, despite the homes higher cost.

        With lower payments, and less energy costs for the next thirty years, some homeowners will be smart enough to see the benefits of the more expensive property and not see it’s cost as anti business expenses, but as a hedge against rising energy costs, and getting a more expensive home for lower monthly payments.

  7. Dave
    March 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    The boys must’ve figured out how to profit from the deal.

    • ResidentCynic
      March 27, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      You bet they did. Nothing happens in this town with out Rex, Frank and Jim getting a cut.

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