Niche Stories

Solar panels on on a residential home's roof

San Francisco mandates solar panels on all new buildings

May 23, 2016
Niche Stories | 2 minute read

On April 19, 2016, San Francisco became the first major American city to require that all new low-and mid-rise buildings include solar panels. The ordinance proposed by Councilman Scott Weiner passed unanimously, and applies to all residential and commercial buildings with 10 or fewer stories started after January 2017.

California state law currently requires that all buildings ensure that 15% of their roof space is unblocked and unshaded (or “solar ready”), but the San Francisco ordinance goes a step further by mandating the installation of either solar panels or heating units on all non-highrise projects. The new law is a step toward switching San Francisco’s entire electric grid to renewable sources by 2020.

This increased (and ultimately total) reliance on renewable energy is an explicit reaction to environmental issues plaguing the coastal city, including the threat of rising sea levels. “We need to continue to pursue aggressive renewable energy policies,” Councilman Weiner wrote when proposing the solar mandate, “to ensure a sustainable future for our city and our region.”

The new rule makes San Francisco a pilot city for an energy solution long proposed by futurists and environmentalists, and its success – or failure – will impact how other local governments legislate solar energy as part of their infrastructures. While many green advocates applaud the decision, opponents feel that the ordinance adds yet another obstacle to the demanding process of building in San Francisco.

ProSight’s clients in solar innovation and installation will want to keep a close eye on San Francisco’s growing reliance on renewable energy. A major city meeting its energy demands with renewables could mean a boom for solar companies nationwide as other jurisdictions follow suit. In the meantime, installers around the Bay Area need to be ready to prove that they can keep up with demand and ensure quality in every panel they install on every new building in town.

For more information on ProSight Specialty Insurance’s coverages for the solar industry, please contact Christy Fayette at cfayette@prosightspecialty.com.