Siting solar and other renewable energy projects is one of the biggest challenges in meeting decarbonization goals and fighting climate change. There is broad consensus that siting solar specifically on the built environment (Buildings, Parking lots) is preferential as opposed to fields and agricultural land. There are many reasons for this, but they are primarily tied to preserving prime soil and managing stormwater runoff.
Still many large buildings and parking lots do not have on-site solar. Whether it is ownership of the building or finances, but sometimes this is about electrical set-ups and roof configurations that make solar non-feasible on a structure. States have begun to lead the charge on amending building codes to encourage solar on new construction. This has been done through requiring new construction be ready for a solar installation known as “solar ready,” as well as legislation on the state and city level that go a step further to require solar to be installed on certain building types.
Solar Ready Rooftops
Solar ready rooftops are a category of legislation that has been gaining traction in recent years to ensure that new construction factors solar into their construction.
On August 3rd, 2023, the Delaware general assembly signed the House Bill 11 which requires any construction of 50,000 sq ft or above to have at least 40% of available roof space ready for a future solar installation.
In July of 2022, New Jersey required all new warehouse constructions of at least 100,000 square feet have at least 40% of its roof area for the future installation of a solar photovoltaic or solar thermal system.
On June 28th, 2023, Washington legislation required all new constructions under 20 stories of height to have at least 40% of its roof space ready for future solar installations.
In addition to solar ready warehouse bills there is a trend of states and municipalities going a step further and requiring solar installation on new construction.
On November 15th, 2019, any new constructions, or reconstructions (where the entire roof deck is being replaced) must provide 100% of the roof space for solar or photovoltaic systems.
On January 1st, 2020, California mandated that all new single-family homes and multi-family dwellings up to three stories high must install solar panels. The CEC also unanimously approved a change to the building codes to require many new commercial buildings to have solar panels and battery storage. This new commercial mandate took effect on January 1, 2023. The commercial buildings included in this change include high-rise residential projects, hotels, offices, medical offices, health clinics, retailers, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and civic spaces.
On October 1st, 2020 Oregon mandated that all new home construction must include the appropriate structures to allow the easy installation of solar modules.
On October 1st, 2022 Oregon mandated that all new commercial construction be compliant with “solar ready” provisions.
Boylan’s bill (2023-H 5851) would require most new construction to include solar panels. It would instruct the Rhode Island Building Code Commission to create different regulations for single-family homes, multi-family homes, large commercial buildings, and parking lots over 16,000 sq. ft.
It is encouraging to see states/municipalities take the lead in ensuring that opportunities for solar are available on new constructions. Though we cannot do anything about previous builds we can ensure that opportunity remains on all new construction. The previously stated legislation can serve as an example for other states to help reduce the barriers on installing for homes and businesses. We look forward to seeing more building codes maximize the built environment for solar deployment.