LANCASTER – The city announced Thursday that the California Energy Commission approved the city’s locally adopted energy standards, making Lancaster the first city in the nation to make residential solar mandatory.
Given authority by the CEC to enforce the ordinance, Lancaster now requires single family residential units – built after Jan. 1, 2014 – to provide an average of 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar-generated electricity per housing unit.
“We continue to aggressively pursue net-zero status, and this approval by the CEC proves we are indeed on the right path,” Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said in a city news release. “Requiring solar power assets for new residential construction in the coming years will bring Lancaster one huge step closer to becoming the Alternative Energy Capital of the World, while providing new homeowners with earth-friendly and cost-effective benefits.”
Lancaster’s Residential Zoning Ordinance was comprehensively revised to require new home builders to meet the aggregate energy generation requirement within a production subdivision, though solar energy systems do not have to be on every home [* see DEC. 30-2013 endnote], according to the news release.
Approved on Dec. 11 by the CEC, the new ordinance was adopted by the Lancaster City Council in March 2013, which approved the implemention of solar energy systems into new residential construction.
At its Oct. 22 meeting, the City Council unanimously adopted another ordinance that amended the 2013 edition of the California Building Standards Code, placing those standards within the Lancaster Municipal Code.
Director of Public Works Robert C. Neal said at the meeting that the solar capacity the city is proposing would provide distributive power to create net zero energy homes – that is, homes that produce more energy than they consume, while averaging zero carbon emissions.
“It will help stabilize our electricity rate,” Neal said. “In fact, our building codes are moving in the direction where we will see mandated by the state that’s net zero homes; the target date for it to be in building codes is 2020.”
CEC Commissioner Karen Douglas, who met with Lancaster’s mayor and senior city staff, said the city was taking very “impressive leadership” in the area of clean energy.
“I’m pleased to see them arrive at this point,” Douglas stated in the release. “I’m looking forward to continued leadership from the City of Lancaster and continued partnership moving forward.”
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Shortly after the adoption of the General Plan Update in 2009, city staff began initial research on the Residential Zones update, according to the news release. 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 were also included in the resolution.
“Our Architectural and Design Commission conducted a comprehensive revision of the City’s previous design guidelines, creating yet another pathway for Lancaster’s future as a thriving community,” the mayor stated in the release.
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DEC. 30-2013: City of Lancaster Communications Manager Joseph Cabral explained to the Bee why Lancaster’s Residential Zoning Ordinance does not require solar energy systems to be on every new home built – although, per the ordinance, every home is supposed to have one solar unit. “You don’t have to have it on every home as long as the sum total equals enough to cover all of the homes,” Cabral said Monday by voicemail. As an example, Cabral said that if you were to build five homes, and every home is required to have one solar unit, you could theoretically build a carport that generates five units and satisfy the units required for the homes. “So you have to have enough units per home, but you don’t necessarily need to have a solar system on each house,” Cabral said.