California's 2020 Rooftop Solar Mandate on the Horizon

by Anna Gretz
October 15, 2019

California is stepping up their rooftop solar game.

Starting next year in 2020, California will become the first state in the US to mandate rooftop solar for all newly constructed homes.

Mandatory rooftop solar legislation is no small deal. With new laws like the one in California, we see an example of how a legislature can drive solar expansion not only through tax credits, but through actual mandates. Passing legislation like this isn’t easy, however, and we can’t expect a total domino effect beyond California to happen right away. Even so, it’s not surprising that California is leading the charge because of the impressive solar penetration the state has seen so far.

California has seen huge solar growth on residential rooftops, particularly in the past few years. We can chalk this up to the state’s impressive renewable energy goals, tax credits, and net-metering laws. But not everyone has the cash needed to make an investment in residential rooftop solar. This is why installing solar during construction makes sense. The construction period is when solar is at its easiest and cheapest, saving the future homeowner the hassle of financing, designing, and overseeing the solar installation. Bundling the solar panels within the overall purchase of the house give the owner the ability to pay it off over time instead of footing a high upfront cost (although there are other options for this as well.)

But talk about mandatory solar begs yet another question: What if we added standard battery storage as well? Solar panels are a great choice for many households, but without a way to store all of the excess energy many solar photovoltaics generate during the day when no one is home to use it up… that’s a lot of energy you’re missing out on. With energy storage in the form of a home battery, you get to keep that hard-earned solar energy stored up until you are ready to use it. Solar panels are better when they’re paired with home batteries--they bring out the best in each other.

Standard solar + storage isn’t a new or original idea. It’s just a great idea. Case in point: “solar + storage” is a term used both inside and outside the energy industry. The Motley Fool published an article predicting that the solar + storage market is about to reach a whole new level, with batteries being automatically included in solar system installation. The article called energy storage the “third main component” of any solar panel system, and predicted that it will cause an upset (in a good way…) within the industry.

Some argue that the industry has already been disrupted.

Things are changing rapidly to accommodate the quick growth of energy storage like home batteries. Residential energy storage got off to a slower start because of the expense of the technology, and many homeowners felt that they couldn’t justify paying for a home battery without a clear and quick payoff period. But the cost challenge has already started to dissipate, especially with incentive programs like California’s SGIP, and many customers taking advantage of time-of-use shifting, buying their electricity at extremely low rates, storing it, and using it whenever they need it. The cost of solar and battery materials is also falling as demand for the new technology rises, and companies like Swell Energy are making financing even easier by offering ways to pay for energy storage monthly, instead of making it an up-front investment.

The value of home batteries is also on the rise, as our power grid continues to break down, causing more and more power outages every year. Homeowners are looking for energy freedom and security, and they’re finding it in home batteries. The current market for solar + storage is great, but the future looks even brighter.

States like California are ready for a new way to build houses, and take advantage of the energy our rooftops can provide. We’re also ready for an energy storage revolution. It won’t be long until “solar + storage” becomes the new normal.