San Fransisco Becomes First US City To Mandate Solar Panels On New Construction


San Fransisco – This past Tuesday one of the most historically progressive cities in America successfully passed a law which will require all newly constructed buildings to install functional solar panels on the rooftops – the first law of its kind in United States history.  The law will officially go into effect in 2017 and applies to all buildings within city limits under 10 stories in height, both commercial and residential alike.

The effort comes in conjunction with the cities long term “goal of meeting 100% of the City’s electricity demand with renewable energyaccording to representative Scott Wiener. If successful, the initiative would make San Fransisco the fifth city in the United States to run 100% on renewable energy – joining Burlington, Aspen, Kodiak and Greensburg. The ordinance was passed with 100% approval by the city’s Board of Supervisors and is meant to act as an extension to a state wide law passed in 2013 requiring all new buildings in California to designate at least 15% of rooftops to include solar panels.

Climate change is cited as the most pertinent issue influencing legislation such as the measure passed on Tuesday. More so than many other states around the country, San Fransisco has been hit particularly hard by the consequences of climate change and as the language of the ordinance points out:

As a coastal city located at the tip of a peninsula, San Francisco is vulnerable to sea level rise, and human activities releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere cause increases in worldwide average temperature, which contribute to melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of ocean water — resulting in rising sea levels.

San Francisco is already experiencing the repercussions of excessive CO2 emissions as rising sea levels threaten the City’s shoreline and infrastructure, have caused significant erosion, increased impacts to infrastructure during extreme tides, and have caused the City to expend funds to modify the sewer system.

For these reasons the city deems the legislation not only justified, but necessary. As an article by NPR points out, reaction to the law has been mixed but for the most part more positive then negative. As the author highlights, “Fortune magazine notes that the new requirement is an extra hurdle for development in a city where building new construction is already “notoriously difficult.” Engadget suggests the impact of the law might not be that dramatic as San Francisco isn’t seeing a boom of new buildings, and Vox argues that boosting city density might have an even bigger impact on carbon levels than the solar panel law.”

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