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California to become first U.S. state mandating solar on new homes (ocregister.com)
314 points by baron816 on May 6, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 336 comments



This is one of those things that sounds nice at first - especially as a soundbite. But, it's clearly a NIMBY move to protect existing home owners financial asset. It's a clever trick to protect existing home owners even more by making new development even more difficult and expensive while making it look like it's an environmental move. Tack on $30k in expense to any new home development and (probably) some lovely legislation about how it has to be installed. On top of this, now they're "encouraging" all-electric homes. What does that mean?! No gas range?! Please, god, no. Why not enforce this legislation on existing home owners, raising the property tax to fund solar farms, enforce better building standards on existing homes, or /something/ that would actually have a substantial effect on the environment? Cause, that ain't helping existing home owners or helping push their home prices even higher.

As a renter who wishes to have a home /somewhere/ in the bay area, this is killing me inside. The existing home owner lobby is so ridiculously strong here. California has the Superman of home owner lobbies. Each day, it's nailed into me that Prop 13 will never go away and home prices are just gonna keep climbing so that non-1% income outsiders cannot get them. Meanwhile, estates will be passed down generation by generation tax free and with no reassessment.


30k though is current price when installed separately. Currently solar panel + equip are already just 40% of the cost. When solar panel will be build into the design of the new construction and done by the contractor the installation cost will come down a lot. Plus as solar panel are in the design of the construction they could be better placed for optimal efficiency increasing the rate of return. My guess is by 2020 when it becomes mandatory it will actually cost maybe around 15k and save the owner a lot more over it's lifetime.


Some people think we're getting too many transplants and that regulating the development of new housing will somewhat curb that. There are some areas I've seen here that have grown in population so much that just getting across town takes an hour or more.

I'm personally all for more growth. I'd love to have more representatives and I think people are going to be very surprised at the results of the 2020 census. But we do need to do something about housing and traffic.


>Some people think we're getting too many transplants

Those people would be wrong. California lost a net of approximately 1 million residents between 2007 and 2016 [1]. Chalk it up to over-regulation (like the issue we are discussing here), high state income taxes, overcrowded/underfunded public schools, expensive housing, etc., but anyone complaining about too many transplants arriving in CA simply doesn't know the statistics.

[1] http://lao.ca.gov/LAOEconTax/Article/Detail/265


> California lost a net of approximately 1 million residents between 2007 and 2016

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but the quoted statement is wrong. The statistic appears to be that: From 2007 to 2016: the number of people moving into CA was 1 million fewer than then number of people moving into CA. However the net population increased by about 3 million [0]. Happy to be enlightened if I'm missing some nuances.

Nonetheless, the immigration vs emigration is a really interesting statistic.

[0] http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=california+population+h...


Parent didn’t say that population dropped. He said that the state is losing more residents to domestic immigration than it’s gaining. Thus the housing issues are not due to domestic immigrants creating too much demand.

I’m pretty certain this doesn’t actually apply to the Bay Area in isolation, though. Population there is climbing much faster than the birth rate, I’d expect.


According to a similar thread I read recently, the disparity is because CA gained in foreign immigration more than it lost in domestic immigration outflows.


No, parent said exactly what I quoted. Based on another comment of theirs, I think they interpreted their citation as a population drop.

I replied initially because on a first read, I read it as a population drop, found it remarkable and then my gut told me that didn't seem right. I hoped to provide clarification to others of the too general statement (the part I quoted) about the cited study.

Good reminder on the Bay Area not being reflective of the state as a whole (aka the broad numbers discussed above). I think it will be worth my time to poke around later and understand the population change components at a finer grain that state-wide.


Maybe you’re right and he was indeed assuming negative domestic migration meant an actual population drop.


I can only tell you what the study I quoted says. There may be factors, such as illegal immigration, that it doesn't take into account. In terms of legal residents, the state has lost 1M people or about 2.5% of its population.


Parent is talking about births. 40 million US people will lead to about 500,000 births a year.

Multiply by the 10 and you have 5 million people that appear in California without migrating (or I guess closer to 4.8 million, whatever).


> California lost a net of approximately 1 million residents between 2007 and 2016 [1].

The study doesn't say that, it says there was 1 million in net outbound domestic migration. It doesn't discuss population change due to international migration (inbound and outbound, legal or otherwise) or natural increase/decrease; in fact, California gained, not lost, 3 million people between 2007 and 2016.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/206097/resident-populati...


You're correct that I should not have used the word residents in my quick interpretation of that study. However the study I linked to is directly relevant to the comment I replied that I replied to, which was about too many transplants arriving. Too many transplants are in fact not arriving, because as this study indicates, 1 million more people left than arrived from other states.

in fact, California gained, not lost, 3 million people between 2007 and 2016.

Most of those gains were through births to existing residents, which says nothing about California being a destination for transplants, which was the point that I was refuting. Children born in California generally don't have a choice as to whether or not to live there. Adults do, and on a net basis, they are choosing to leave.


> Too many transplants are in fact not arriving, because as this study indicates, 1 million more people left than arrived from other states.

“From other states” alone, sure, OTOH, California has had net positive total (domestic and international) migration.


If you include illegal immigration, sure. I'm not sure that's a positive for existing residents though.


Wasn't the concern upthread thst you were trying to argue against that the level of inbound migration was too high?


The full original sentence I replied to was this:

“Some people think we're getting too many transplants and that regulating the development of new housing will somewhat curb that

The “transplants” he is concerned with are those with both the means and legal standing to purchase and drive up demand for new homes. How many illegal immigrants to California fall into that category? So most of the “transplants” that are relevant to this discussion are coming from other US states.


> How many illegal immigrants to California fall into that category? So most of the “transplants” that are relevant to this discussion are coming from other US states.

Why in this thread do you keep making the mistake of thinking migration consists only of domestic migration and illegal immigration? You know that legal international migration (both immigration directed at permanent residency and more transient legal residency by foreigners) is a thing, right, and actually quite a big one in Californiaz right?


People can immigrate legally from other countries. Most of the people I know in the San Francisco bay area who own a home are Chinese immigrants.


Are you honestly arguing that the majority of international immigration to California consists of wealthy Chinese?


Well, when it comes to demand for property owenrship, you don't actually have to be resident; wealthy Chinese do a lot of that without ever living in the place where they are driving up prices.

But certainly a sizable share of the foreigners migrating into California have substantial means (either pre-migration assets and/or post-pubescent income) and China isn't exactly underrepresented among the sources of such migration.


So now you’re actually arguing that the vast majority of international immigration to California is not poor people from Mexico, but rather wealthy Chinese buying up homes?

Any data to back up this claim or are you just arguing to argue at this point? There are many news outlets that would love to see your data on this, because it is a startling revelation indeed.

Edit: to those downvoting this, please provide data corroborating his claim above. Otherwise there is nothing to downvote, as I am simply calling into question his claim that wealthy, legal Chinese immigrants outnumber poor illegal immigrants from Mexico in California.


> So now you’re actually arguing that the vast majority of international immigration to California is not poor people from Mexico, but rather wealthy Chinese buying up homes?

No, and you can tell they because the only mentioned of the phrase “wealthy Chinese” in my comment refers to people buying up property from abroad, and the phrase.“vadt majority” (or even the word “majority”) doesn't appear in my comment at all.

> Any data to back up this claim

Since I never made the argument you reference, and it's not necessary either to the core issue or the tangent from the main discussion in my comment, why would you ask for that?


> Most of the people I know in the San Francisco bay area who own a home are Chinese immigrants.

He's saying that the majority of immigrants who are buy houses are Chinese. I'm not arguing for or against that by the way. For places where this already took place, Toronto and Victoria Canada.


> He's saying that the majority of immigrants who are buy houses are Chinese

No, I'm not saying anything like that.


Yeah but he keeps jumping around to either side of the issue just to argue. Either way, I’m done with it. He can argue with himself now. There’s a reason he has 50,000 karma points - he has lots of time and patience with which to argue.


They don't need to purchase homes to drive up demand. If they are living in homes then they are driving down supply.


I'm sure that California lost even more than 1 million to diaspora, but the loss was offset by new arrivals. I'm also sure the number of illegal aliens has increased significantly but there doesn't seem to be anyone keeping track of them.


The net loss, including all offsets, has been 1 million.


I don’t think that’s correct. California’s population has grown significantly over the period you’re discussing. http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/california-populatio...


The study I quoted was done by the State of California. It's most likely a reliable source.


The study specifically says “domestic” migration.


This entire thread is about migration. I was refuting someone's statement about too many many transplants arriving, when in fact net transplants are negative. Births have nothing to do with that. Most international migration to California is illegal.


If nothing else, that one doesn't take into account births/deaths and immigration/emigration outside the US.


That's net domestic migration. It doesn't count international migration, one way or the other.


Your source is talking about domestic (within USA) migration, not total.

The number of immigrants to CA during that time far exceeded 1 million net loss domestically.


Illegal immigration is a separate issue. I am not sure that any reliable records can be produced for to account for that, given that they are by definition off the record.


Huh? I'm taking about both legal and illegal immigration


> Some people think we're getting too many transplants and that regulating the development of new housing will somewhat curb that.

Those people are either idiots or don't care about anyone but themselves. Not everyone born and raised in California has parents who are well off enough to pass down a house to them (in fact I doubt most have parents that can). What happens when our teachers and every low paid worker get fed up with the quality of life (which includes lining their landlords' coffers instead of building equity) and decide to move elsewhere? Are the home owners suddenly going to pick up the slack and do the jobs of the 99%? "Snap decisions that sound good to my tribe but ultimately lead to long term problems for everyone" should be the motto of a certain group of people here.

It's also disconcerting that some tech people fall into that group of people because you would think tech people of all people would have basic enough skills to look beyond the first consequence of a solution.


Tech people are also hyper "rational" which some read as "cold".


Yep, "If you don't build it they won't come " doesnt work - especially in a desirable place like CA. I really hope these people don't really believe this motto. The current status is just wealth protection for those that got in years ago.

Regarding traffic - it is really sad that the epicenter of tech (and frankly our entire US economy) is so backwards on public transit and infrastructure. Its such an easy fix if we rolled our sleeves up and did it now and not over the next 40 years...


>Regarding traffic - it is really sad that in the epicenter of tech

That people still sit in traffic for hours so that they can sit in front of their laptops all day in a germ-farm office and poop next to their coworkers.

It's dance monkey mentality. It's living in the past.


Hey, aren’t you the guy who said you can make a lotion that will treat skin cancer? how can I message you?


I am. Reply with contact info and I will contact you.


Those peopler are, of course, totally incorrect. Our population boom is partly from migration but mostly from longevity.


Ouch, I don't think we want to hear their proposed solutions to that issue.


Such people are called nativists.


> But, it's clearly a NIMBY move to protect existing home owners financial asset.

It doesn't apply to new construction over 3 stories. Especially for the Bay Area, building up seems like the only way out of the current morass, so is it really that clear-cut?

Also most of the house price in high-demand areas is the land cost. $30k sounds like a lot but is less than 5% of the median house price. People pay that much over asking quite regularly.


Dismissing large sums of money like that in terms of percentages can really get you into trouble. Sure, it's "only" 5% more for a $1.5M property. Another way to think of it is as a 30 thousand dollar roadblock facing anyone who wants to move to California.


Err...30k is 5% of $600k which is the going rate for a townhome in Fremont.

I'm sorry but when the sums are that astronomical it really is a rounding error - especially for a home improvement that saves the homeowner money in the long term. If someone can't afford $630k they almost certainly couldn't afford the $600k it would've cost otherwise.

Like I mentioned above, because of space constraints the Bay Area has little choice but to densify if it wants to add significant new housing, and the new regs wouldn't apply to buildings taller than 3 stories.

Things like parking minimums, low-density zoning, and fragmentation of public transit have done and continue to do, most of the damage to housing affordability. Requiring solar is peanuts in comparison and has otherwise beneficial effects also - namely, reduction of carbon emissions.


AND... it pays for itself!


It's actually a little more than 5% of the median house price ($515,000), but setting that quibble aside that's a median* - meaning half of the homes are below that price. I know a lot of us Bay Area folks tend to forget this, but there are a lot of people living in California where $515k would buy the biggest house in town, and new home prices are closer to the 250k. This legislation is clearly a regressive burden on the less wealthy home buyers.

[1] median list price from https://www.zillow.com/ca/home-values/


Adding $30k to your mortgage would cost like $150 a month extra or so. It will produce about 15,000 kWh per month, which is about $150 off your electric bill.


So basically I give up $30K now (or pay that, plus interest) for no net benefit until 30 years out?

That sounds terrible. That $30K would turn into $100k if I put away for retirement.


No, it's vice versa, you put $30k more on your mortgage and pay it out over 30 years with lowest interest rate. So theoretically it should come at no cost to you since your additional mortgage payment will be countered by smaller electricity bill. But of course that depends on your electricity usage, pricing and how much money is required for maintaining the system.


But in the end, there is no net benefit to you. So why would you do it?


Support green energy, being more independent in case of grid electricity blackouts. That's the point of Tesla's roof tiles (at least how it's supposed to be), if you get same looking house and around the same net price, why don't do it?


> being more independent in case of grid electricity blackouts

That's generally not the case in California, as we're net-metering here. Very few people install storage and transfer switches to handle blackouts.


That's only a wash if you never have to maintain them in the lifetime of the 30 year mortgage.


You don’t have to maintain them. Their warranty is 25 years, they’ll produce beyond that. It’s a no brainer.


Ok, this isn't "the thing" with solar panels, but: they're going to require maintenance, be subject to wiring issues, and you have to clean those bad boys.

Roof work is notoriously 'dangerous', and impacts people with mobility/age issues differently than most of us. The maintenance burden is more than just the warranty, and any cost calculations of power savings should account for those costs as well.

[Oh, and we should all be god enough at high school level physics to solve the "climate crisis" in a few hours...]


I disagree with your argument that panels need maintenance except for replacement of failed components under warranty, which would be done by the installer.


You disagree that solar panels need washing and that electrical installations in houses require maintenance over time? ... okie ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

"Solar Is NOT Maintenance Free" -- https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2014/02/accelerating-u... -- "We like to think PV is maintenance free but it is not ... if you don’t do the maintenance, you can have sub-optimal asset performance."

https://www.wikihow.com/Maintain-a-Solar-Panel

https://www.civicsolar.com/support/installer/articles/snow-s...


Very pro-solar, but lost in all this is that people assume an astronomical amount of electricity use. Am I just odd?

In winter in SD (so no climate control needed) my electric bill was $12 a month. Solar's great and all but putting a 15kwh a month installation on the roof would be crazy.


Yes? That seems extraordinarily low. I live in Massachusetts with oil heat and only rare use of one window unit AC in the summer and I’m a bit over $100/mo which the electric company tells me is about average for houses of my size.


> Solar's great and all but putting a 15kwh a month installation on the roof would be crazy.

Do you mean 15kw per daylight hour install, or a 15kwh total per month install? Because 15kwh per month is a really small amount of power, that's roughly equivalent to running a single desktop PC for one hour per day.

That's hobby-kit amounts of electricity. A single 100w solar panel could almost produce 15kwh/month on it's own, in ideal sunlight conditions, and you can buy that for roughly $200 USD at retail.


Sorry, I misspoke! what I get for writing without adding.

I averaged about 90 watts in winter, around 2kwh a day, so 60 ish a month, so roughly eight or so bucks for the power with the rest from the odd fixed charge.

In summer I had one efficient window AC and would use about five times as much energy.


in CA you need to for air con


Do you mean 1,500 kWh/mo? Generating 15 MWh/mo would be a very large residential system. $150 for 15,000 kWh of electricity saved/returned would only be $0.01/kWh.


Why isn't everyone installing then? There is a net cost somewhere.


> Why isn't everyone installing then? There is a net cost somewhere.

Because it is damn close to break even and would you spend money on something you didn't need just because it was good for the environment?

Most people don't expend effort for $0/month to $50/month in returns. Despite all the solar proponents, once you factor in interest/maintenance/etc, its probably pretty close to that.

We are probably 10 years from it being 100% obvious that all homes should have solar.


Same reason most people in Canada weren't installing geothermal until the federal government started subsidizing them: Inertia.

Despite what they may teach you in Econ 101, the efficient market hypothesis isn't an actually useful way of looking at human behaviour. It might work for modelling some of the actions of Goldman Sachs, but actual people are squishy and irrational.


That's a misrepresentation of the efficient market hypothesis. It does not rely on the assumption that humans are rational.


No, but it does assume the irrationality maps to a random distribution.


How could it not?


Cultural prejudice?


I don't think that prevents a random distribution, only some kinds of them. But I'm not expert in statistics, let alone the EMH.


Because lots of people have tribally motivated objections. Or they don't have the cash on hand. Or they are landlords and won't do so until forced to.

But the actual cost has never been lower and energy prices are falling. There are downsides but they're very different.


Opportunity cost and the time value of money. You would likely be better off putting that money to work elsewhere.


A ton of people are installing them! Only on hacker news is rooftop solar some kind of horrible socialist boondoggle.

edit: to answer your question more directly: many people just won't be bothered to install them or don't think of it, or can't get the financing easily. For some people the numbers don't work out, because their roof is old or they don't get enough sun or their electric bill is already low.


On the flip side, if you bought a house from an old engineer who converted the entire house to electric appliances, and you bring your own electric dryer, and you have a family of 4, and a/c, in California, rooftop solar is dead obvious.


So then I guess we've hit QED - If all that is true why is a legislative mandate desirable?


Adding $30k to your mortgage would cost like $150 a month extra or so.

So instead of having ~$1800/yr going to your energy company's coffers, where they might use it to innovate and actually one day make clean energy cost effective, it should go straight to your bank's bottom line in the form of interest. While it may cost consumers the same amount, that sounds like a net negative to me.


So... You think we should forego installing a clean energy source that is available today and instead give that money to a company that does not provide clean energy in the hope that maybe they will provide the clean energy that we could have had today at some point in the future.

And your argument for that is... banks?


If you one day want financially viable clean energy, there are certainly better places for that money to go than into your bank's pocket - such as to energy providers, who could then use that money for R&D.

Tell me how many banks are spending their profits doing clean energy research.


Energy providers in California do have clean energy options. They are also more efficient than individual solar installs.


Seattle doesn’t have an equivalent of prop. 13, yet without enough supply, prices still have skyrocketed.

With the current supply problem in Bay Area, realistically all you are going to get is marginally more displacement of people who anchored themselves to a super expensive area in the past, but could not sustain a 10x increase in tax.

Building enough supply can work: https://la.curbed.com/2018/5/2/17311992/los-angeles-how-much...

And it doesn’t take long for things to stabilize either, once you increase supply.


Seattle is not alone. Vancouver, Sydney, London and other cities all have experienced the same boom. The global economy is currently booming, wealth is shifting from middle class to upper class. Building homes have become cheaper but since transportation services are still outdated, more and more people want to stay in the same place. The super wealthy are leveraged by the banks and think housing is a great investment so they squat on swaths of buyable property and rent it out.

If a City implements a solid transportation system that gets you in the burbs within an hour, then the prices drop. Prices are simply a matter of demand and supply, and supply is artificially capped.

The truth is, humans are terrible long term decision makers for the good of a large population. Personal agendas always get in the way.


Prop 13 is the coup de grace that exacerbates all the other issues that contribute to demand outstripping supply by removing the tax pressure that should've been incenting more density and liquidity in the housing market.

Seattle's real estate market has some but not all of the same pressures: too prescriptive of zoning that requires single family homes for no good reason and booming economies adding jobs at a faster rate than housing stock. But Seattle builds faster and taller in the median case; though the tall building seems to go through waves of either being all apartments or all condos.

Seattle has built enough housing supply that rents actually dropped earlier this year (https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/seattle-ar...) and the median clearing price is less than half of the San Francisco rate.


They don't want you there. Let them die slowly with no growth, or they are right and can sustain it, then who's to argue otherwise?


Seems easy to fix. The solar upgrade must be done to existing homes the next time they change hands.

Either its a good idea that existing homeowners are willing to pay for with a bit of their equity, or its a dick move dressed in the moralizing of environmentalism.


Doesn't this hurt their property values though? Now anyone that wants to do a tear down needs to pay to add solar. If the buyer must pay more to build, they logically will be willing to pay less for land.


> they logically will be willing to pay less for land

Only when there's restricted demand. Because we're in a restricted supply market, pricing is mostly established in based on alternatives. If every property tear down has the same additional cost, then it's probably not going to affect the price.


Or look into other options, such as building taller or re-furbishing and expanding the existing building to meet their needs instead of tearing it down to rebuild.


> What does that mean?! No gas range?! Please, god, no.

Serious question: why is that a problem?

Most modern apartment buildings here in Warsaw, Poland are built without gas. Nobody has problems with it: in fact, people would rather not have a potentially dangerous gas infrastructure in their building. I've been cooking on electric for more than 10 years now and would never think of switching back.

Why would you want to have gas?


Gas allows for more precise and responsive heat control per burner. To the average homeowner, this doesn’t make much of a difference, but I understand it to be of great importance for professional chefs and passionate hobbyists.


I'm not sure on that. Our electric heating can control the heating very precisely and hold the boiler at a specific temperature within the tolerance of the temperature gauge.

The heatpump and gas burner that are external are much different beasts as they require some windups and unlike a solid heating rod you can't flip them on and off rather rapidly (about once every 5 minutes).

An induction heater should also be able to heat a pot much more precisely than a gas burner (again down to instrument precision if it has one)


I cook 2-3 times per day: electric/induction isn't even close to gas. I even get annoyed by less powerful gas. FYI this is a common sentiment among people who cook. I'm not some master chef or anything and don't get excited by $5000 appliances. Has is simply better.

I'd sooner consider moving to a house without heat, A/C, parking etc - than one without gas (and if fact have). Even broadband can usually be added for enough money. But gas stoves are really hard to retrofit, and camp stoves are ghetto and unstable/dangerous esp with heavy dishes.


Electric ranges are indeed a joke to any semi-serious chef... right up until the relatively recent advent of inductive ranges. While still rare in the US, they are attainable, and really cool. Er, hot.


I actually had propane put in for my stovetop during a remodel a while back. I much prefer cooking on a good gas stovetop. More responsive and more high end output.


> Please, god, no. Won't anyone think of the passionate hobbyists...

Professiinals not withstanding, this seems involuntarily comical.


From experience in the UK Its a lot better cost wise for heating etc - the reason developers and landlords like all electric is they can save on having to properly have the gas equipment inspected


It's better cost wise for heating for now. Gas prices have been at a historic low for the last decade or two. That doesn't mean it will stay that way. And it emits CO2.

In areas with cheap and clean electric heat (like, say, Quebec with its massive hydroelectric sources and relatively cheap electricity) electric heat really isn't bad at all. And it's potentially more future proof for the addition of renewable electricity sources later.


Up to a point Lord Copper - I live in a UK country who's highest point is 200 ft above sea-level - so well just drown all those valleys in Scotland and Wales for hydro them.


Here’s an idea: make solar mandatory, but require it to be funded in part by a property tax increase


That's extremely counter productive. The most bang from your buck for solar is for utilitity plants. So raising taxes just to put solar on SOME new homes which benifits only the new home purchasers (majority of whom are quite wealthy) with their electricity bill and house value is dumb. Basically you're taxing everyone rich and poor equally (landlords pay property tax too) just for a soundbyte headline which accomplishes literally nothing.

If you're taxing everyone, at least make it efficient and build utility plants but even that is dumb because it subsidizes solar and likely puts the money into the wrong person's pocket.

If you were taxing everyone and wanted to help the environment, building public infrastructure, transportation, roads, bridges, trains is the best option even if it doesn't look as catchy. It'll produce a hell of a lot more benifits than a few MW of super expensive solar.

If you still want a headline, build transmission lines. Texas in 6 years went from dead last in renewables to first with over double California because the governor invested $7B in transmission lines making renewable energy an economic decision not a subsidized one


How is the $7b invested in transmission lines not a subsidy?


The same reason why building a road isn't a subsidy. Is building a bridge from Oakland to a San Francisco a subsidy for Uber and Twitter?

You are expanding the infrastructure, without transmission lines there is no economic viability for most of our renewable energy.


I would argue that roads that are not paid for by tolls and/or gas taxes are subsidized by those who don’t drive.


Really? Do people who don't drive not benefit from roads? How does your grocery store gets its food?


I'm certainly a big fan of solar power, but rooftop solar is a little silly. Rooftop solar would make sense if we had some shortage of land and couldn't just fill up empty fields with panels, but that's not the case. It's much cheaper for utility companies to buy up big plots of land than it is to try to figure out how to outfit odd shaped surfaces with panels.

California is really missing the forrest for the trees here. There's so much low hanging fruit (things that could kill two birds with one stone) that they're ignoring. If the state would focus on higher density living and public transportation over imposing regulations that will drive more people away and lower the standard of living for those who remain, then we would see a much bigger global impact on reducing climate change. Because of this, more people will decide to live in Texas instead of California, where they'll run their air conditioners 10 months out of the year in their huge, inefficient houses which draw power from coal plants.


>If the state would focus on higher density living...

>...where they'll run their air conditioners 10 months out of the year in their huge, inefficient houses

The type of people that live in huge inefficient homes are generally also the same type of people that don't want to live in high density areas. California could turn open fields in to solar farms like you mentioned, but that requires that someone foot the bill and also build the infrastructure for it. "Forcing" people to put solar panels on their own home solves both of those problems. It also makes you more immune to losing power in a natural disaster, of which California has plenty.

I'm not saying I'm even for this issue, I don't live in California. But your view is extremely negative and ignores the negatives of your way while also ignoring the positives of the way mentioned in the article.


> It also makes you more immune to losing power in a natural disaster, of which California has plenty.

Unfortunately, this is generally not the case. Most grid-tie solar inverters do not support disconnected operation. They all have anti-islanding features that disconnect the solar panels when the grid goes down (to prevent back-flow into the grid that could injure linemen working to repair outages). There are a few inverters that include an emergency-outlet on the inverter that works when the power is out, but you have to run an extension cord from the inverter to the devices you want to power.

It is possible to buy a hybird off-grid inverter, but they are much more expensive than either plain grid-tie or off-grid, and the power company is going to scrutinize their installation a lot more closely.


> to prevent back-flow into the grid that could injure linemen working to repair outages

Surely they can't entirely rely on this for safety?


Backfeed prevention devices are not the only arrow in the safety quiver, but they are required for lineman safety purposes (as well as other net wins, like reduced problems with downed lines meeting up with everyday people). Backfed generators (and now solar, wind, etc.) injure and kill.


This seems like a simple problem to solve, by putting the inverter at the periphery of the domestic system.



>(to prevent back-flow into the grid that could injure linemen working to repair outages)

Back-flows from generators, solar and other home power sources are not really an issue. It takes a specific set of circumstances where there's both equipment failure and the utility worker fails to check if lines are live.

Basically, the resistance of the entire neighborhood is indistinguishable to a short from the perspective of the breakers on your power generation equipment.

Still, you shouldn't back feed because we live in a society where everyone must play by the rules of idiots regardless of whether or not they can prove themselves to be otherwise. Therefore you cannot be trusted to flip switches properly yourself and I must advise you to use a proper transfer switch.


It's not powering the whole neighborhood that's the problem. With downed lines it very well might not put any significant load on the inverter yet still have a significant amount of downed distribution lines live. Normally the fire department or the power company can just take a hot stick and within a couple minutes pull out the fuse upstream of a segment and ground out the lines making it safe from the rest of the grid. With improperly installed generators every house is a potential source of power, there's no quick and easy way to isolate all of them like their is with utility power, and grounding out every segment might not be as easy to do reliably as with utility power. If you ground out the line upstream of the fault then you know with certainty that utility power isn't going to somehow energize the portion of line being worked on but when it's being fed from more than one direction there could be a fault that isn't readily apparent that creates a dangerous situation where a linesman thinks a line is safe when it is live being powered by a generator.


Aren't shorts very low resistance? I'm not an electrician so maybe I misunderstand here.

What would be the benefit of me "properly flipping switches" in the context of a natural disaster? What if I am not home?


Yes, and so is a neighborhood. A dim lightbulb has a high resistance. A bright lightbulb has a lower resistance. Multiple bright lightbulbs in parallel, measured together as one, have an even lower resistance.


I don't follow. How does a neighborhood become both high and low resistance?


Where did anyone imply that?


Why does California need Solar farms in first place ? Why not ask nevada to build it and buy electricity from them ?

If solar is profitable why is some private company not doing it already ?


Who told you it was profitable? It isn’t in most areas.



Sans incentives, it is NOT cheaper than other forms of energy in MOST areas. Yes, there are exceptions to everything, but by and large, it is NOT profitable without subsidies. You can argue whether or not it's worth the extra cost to taxpayers and consumers etc., but you cannot argue that it's profitable and/or cheaper in most markets without subsidies.


> Sans incentives, it is NOT cheaper than other forms of energy in MOST areas.

You may be referencing old sources. For example, even though the UK's solar potential is reasonably low, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) shows that levelized cost of solar-generated power IS cheaper than MOST other forms of energy.[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#...


People in inner parts of California have to spend significantly more on energy because of extreme weather while we enjoy the moderate weather in Mountain View.

California has higher energy prices and the poor people who tend to live in inner parts are suffering a lot.

When you look at profitability you need to deduct the government subsidies and assume that it comes from our taxes. Is it really sensible idea to tax a farmer in yolo county to pay more for his energy usage because the rich people in bay area have decides that solar is more important ?

This leads to more inequality, resentment and a divided society.


> The type of people that live in huge inefficient homes are generally also the same type of people that don't want to live in high density areas.

Is this true? IIRC the shortage of urban-style denser housing is so severe that pretty much everyone who prefers that type of housing has to buy a sprawly McMansion anyways, since that's what on the market at prices people can afford.

"Huge" and "inefficient" is in the eye of the beholder, and in most countries your standard-sized American house would fall under both of those categories.


> California could turn open fields in to solar farms like you mentioned, but that requires that someone foot the bill and also build the infrastructure for it. "Forcing" people to put solar panels on their own home solves both of those problems.

You're missing the obvious alternative, which is that Cali could instead tax new homes the amount required to install the equivalent panels in some field, where they're cheaper and easier to service, where they can be positioned for optimal sunlight, etc.


> You're missing the obvious alternative, which is that Cali could instead tax new homes the amount required to install the equivalent panels in some field, where they're cheaper and easier to service, where they can be positioned for optimal sunlight, etc.

No thanks. Then some other org controls the power I can get from those panels, can corrupt officials to raise my rates unnecessarily, charge me higher rates for generation facilities that may not be needed except to juice shareholder returns (Duke Energy collected over a billion dollars for a nuclear power plant they'll never build in Florida, and they are under no obligation to return those funds to ratepayers). This is not uncommon. NV Energy in Nevada, Duke and FPL in Florida, utility coalitions in Kentucky and Arizona have all fought against distributed generation, the list goes on.

Rooftop/distributed solar is a hedge against utility shenanigans, and with how quickly rooftop solar pays itself back (under 10 years in over half the US states while rolling the cost into a long term fixed rate loan product, ie your mortgage), it's insane we don't mandate its installation in more places on new/retrofit construction [1].

Disclosure: I own a 10kw solar install on my roof. I’m biased and opinionated.

[1] https://i.imgur.com/ug2R3Jl.jpg (NREL US Solar Potential Map)

[+] https://i.imgur.com/c86gWxh.jpg (Rate of return on cash invested by state)


Only if you are off grid are you insulated from the power companies. If you are grid tie you are subject to whatever rate they will pay you for your power and charge you for power.


Storage will only get cheaper, it's only a matter of how quickly [1] [2]. Based on historical renewable generation and storage rapid cost declines, you will be able to be self sufficient faster than utilities will be able to put you over the barrel by moving peak pricing away from the solar "duck curve" [3].

[1] https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-storage... (Lazard Levelized Cost of Storage 2017)

[2] https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/08/03/lithium-ion-batteries... (Lithium-ion batteries below $200/kWh by 2019 will drive rapid storage uptake, finds IHS Markit)

[3] https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/confronting-duck-curve-...


Storage doesn't matter if the solar panels on your roof cannot cover your average power consumption, if they don't you need someone to supply power externally.


Just because you may need to supplement your supply doesn’t mean “storage doesn’t matter.”

With storage you need less supply and you can supplement your supply when rates are lowest.


>Only if you are off grid are you insulated from the power companies.

You can be "off grid" by throwing a switch.


Very few inverters will do this.


Most meter boxes have such a switch?


Most inverters don't work without connection to the grid. If you flip the fuse or meter box to go "off grid" the inverter will stop working that very same second.

You can however get expensive inverters than do work of the grid, but they are, as mentioned, expensive compared to a simple grid-tie inverter.


The “expensive” part isn’t necessarily true. Some grid-tie inverters have limited backup capability for very little cost. IIRC the SMA Sunny Boy series can supply 15A 120V using a dedicated outlet. SolarEdge’s StorEdge is their standard DC-coupled storage inverter, and it can supply 5kW of backup power.


> You're missing the obvious alternative, which is that Cali could instead tax new homes the amount required to install...

Why why just new homes. Instead tax all electricity consumers on their bills to pay for the solar farms.


This is how California works; privilege old residents over the new.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but it is very clearly what California voters want. The idea is that we have these massive boom/bust cycles (that seem to trend upwards) and we want to ensure that those who are already here benefit from the boom times, even at the cost of making things rather harder for the newcomers.

The interesting thing is that... a lot of the older service people I've talked to, barbers, uber drivers, etc... own homes around here that they bought when it was cheap. because of these rules, sure, they can't eat out everyday, but they can continue to live around here, should they so choose, on very small wages. I think that our rent control and our prop 13 and other favoring of existing residents does in part subsidize our service industry; in some ways, I think it's why services around here just aren't as expensive as you would expect, when you consider how much more expensive rent is here (and programers are here) vs. the rest of the country.

I personally think that the economy would be better overall if we just built a lot and then raised the costs of the output of locally produced services in line with rent, e.g. raised service wages in line with programmer wages. But, I do think it's important to understand the majority California view.


"e.g. raised service wages in line with programmer wages."

...wait, what?


by the same percentage as, perhaps? Both are intensely local, and while local tech industry wages have been increasing pretty dramatically over the last decade, I think that service industry wages have stagnated, as have prices. I think the economy would be better off if we had the same degree of inflation in the service sector as we have in the tech sector.

Just my opinion, of course, and I understand it's an unpopular one.


Ultimately the wage increases would increase costs to the consumer, so it seems that you’d want to factor in the population as a whole (minus the service industry, as is the example).

TLDR; the proportion of programmers matters.


Electricity is not a public utility in California, so wouldn't that solution require the four(?) private utilities in California to raise prices or sell bonds to purchase land/build a solar power plant?


Avoid that altogether and tax energy production equal to the economic cost of its damage. Redistribute the funds gathered to all citizens since they're the ones impacted by the damage. Buy solar panels, pay the steep tax, take whatever steps work for you, where you live, etc.


So rich people hardly notice the difference, and pensioners die of heat stroke because they can't afford air conditioning?


Pensioners receive a check from the tax funds just like everyone else. Assuming pensioners use less electricity than average, they will receive a net benefit.

Corporations using a lot of electricity get the same sized tax dividend check the pensioner gets, so it's a net loss for them. The wealthy subsidize the poor under this system.

It functions alot like ubi actually.


Pensioners tend to use more power than younger residents which is why inflation in power costs hurts them proportionally more.


They don't use more than factories, big box retailers, large corporate offices, data centers, families with children, etc. As long as they're less than the average, they get a net benefit.


Pensioners in general are on a fixed income which is where your idea breaks down.


Their income is irrelevant. If they consume fewer kWh of electricity than the average power company customer, they will get a net benefit. They might pay a $25 tax, but get a $40 benefit. Meanwhile the large factory might pay $5,000 but they still get the same $40 rebate the pensioner gets.

Given that large corporations who consume huge amounts of electricity are in the pool, it's almost impossible that the pensioner could consume more than the average.


"If" they wont! as they dont go out to work and also fell the cold more. You seem to be missing the point here


Businesses will use orders of magnitude more than the pensioners. The fact that a pensioner might use more per capita than a young person doesn't matter. When the young person leaves the home for work, they're just going to a different building that is also consuming electricity, generating more pollution tax. Plus, there are more people per household in a young home because of children.


Tax energy according to its externalities. Then fix the resulting poverty by redistributing money according to the standard of living you want to ensure. Do not mix both policies.


Not so obvious. Prop 13 puts a cap on property taxes.


Yeah. This is going to raise the cost of new housing even further; one wishes that it were combined with something like SB 827: https://www.vox.com/cities-and-urbanism/2018/2/23/17011154/s... (which failed in committee).


Note that this is only on 1-3 story buildings. This will raise the cost of low-density housing. The point of 827 was to incentivize higher density construction, and what is essentially a new tax on single-family homes should also have the effect of incentivizing higher density.


Housing affordability was never going to be fixed with new single family homes. If you’re so fabulously wealthy that you can live in a house, let alone build one, you can afford this.


In many places in America, you do not have to be anything close to wealthy to live in a house. Unfortunately the market in SV is so skewed that everyone who lives in a house is "the rich," who we don't mind making things more expensive for - without realizing that we're actually adding to the gigantic stack of unnecessary distance between ourselves and home ownership. Instead of moving home ownership from "fabulously wealthy" to "wealthy beyond compare," we should pursue policies that move it away from there.


It’s structurally impossible for house ownership to be affordable in a place this popular and geographically constrained. Affordability will require multifamily development.

The regulatory environment currently has its thumb on the scales in favor of single-family homes. Shifting the pendulum the other way, even a little bit, is a good thing. We shouldn’t be building anything less than 4 stories tall, and if we do, costs like this can and should be spread across several tenants.


You could keep the single-family homes if the corporate campuses were spread out into the countryside. There's no good reason why one tech company should be five minutes away from their competitor but three hours away from the nearest affordable housing.


>There's no good reason why one tech company should be five minutes away from their competitor

I disagree strongly. I think the most valuable thing about silicon valley is that I can walk to tens of small employers, from my house, and at least two big employers who could reasonably hire me.

In bicycling or uber distance, there are thousands of small places and hundreds of large employers.

Because I live in the silicon valley, I can switch jobs almost on a whim; I don't have to move, I don't have to upset my social circles, etc...

I think this is actually a big part of why Silicon Valley is valuable both to the workers and to the employers; there's a huge pool of people and a huge pool of jobs that we can match up without inconveniencing anyone. You don't have to settle for the job that is nearby or for the employee who is willing to move.


There are many good reasons (i.e. traffic, preserving nature) why the Bay Area should not sprawl any further than it already has.


Correct. Not sure why Facebook to Netflix can't have some of their teams work from Morgan Hill instead of everyone sitting in the same HQ creating really bad traffic patterns.

The only reason I think is that owners of these companeis don't give shit.


> In many places in America

I think constraining this discussion to California might be more appropriate, since this is CA legislation.


Still true of many places in California.


This.

Riding crowded mass transit and living in apartments with your neighbors 4" away should be a choice and there should exist reasonably priced alternatives. The target is a society so wealthy that the median person can own a home where they want and commute in their luxury car if that's what they want to do.

(And before everyone complains about pollution I would like to point out that achieving that level of wealth is so far off that home heating/cooling and transportation are likely to be basically all electric and the grid will be what determines the environmental impact of that)


That’s not geometrically possible for metros beyond a size threshold we’ve long surpassed. There are diminishing/negative returns to road expansion and a finite supply of land within natural barriers.

It’s relatively straightforward to alleviate transit crowding, and to sound-isolate apartments, with money. But no practical amount of road expansion fixes congestion, and we’re not likely to remove the mountains or fill in the Bay for more tract housing.


An extra $15-20k of added value is not what stands in the way of California home building.


$15k here, $20k there, pretty soon you're talking about a lot of money.


Prices rise by at least that much every few months. It’s a rounding error.


1.5% of a million dollars is a rounding error. You and many other people in this thread are extremely disconnected from reality.


The median home across all California is up 9% last year to $537k [0]. That's a change on the order of $40k. 1.5% of a million dollars is indeed a lot of money, but in this context, you pay the same penalty for letting 6 months elapse.

[0] https://www.zillow.com/ca/home-values/


And how many such regulations that only add on "rounding errors" to the cost of creating housing exist?


827, in its terminal form, contained a provision that anyone building within a quarter mile of a transit station had to provide their tenants with transit passes in perpetuity, a net present cost of about $50k. I really don't think 827 would have done a lot to lower prices if it had passes with that impractical provision.


Odd shaped surfaces? Roofs tend to be flat rectangles or triangles. Every solar roof installation I’ve seen in the wild is just rectangular panels bolted on top, with no attempt to cover the entire thing. If the panels don’t align neatly with the roof edge, then they just leave a gap.

The space is free if you’re already building a house anyway. Installation seems fairly straightforward. Is it really that much cheaper to install separate panels that it offsets the cost of buying dedicated land for it?


Eh, some houses have really funky roofs (my house, for example) or roofs with no south facing surface. But the other thing to consider is that, with solar becoming mandatory, roof designs will be changed to better accommodate solar panels.


I agree with you. This seems like low-hanging fruit in ripe need of plucking.


> Roofs tend to be flat rectangles or triangles.

Flat, but virtually always angled. (Sometimes good, sometimes not.)


With a typical design, half are angled well, and nothing says you have to put any panels on the other half.


>Because of this, more people will decide to live in Texas instead of California, where they'll run their air conditioners 10 months out of the year in their huge, inefficient houses which draw power from coal plants.

I think the parts of Texas and California with tech jobs are... not substitutable for a large part of the tech workforce on political/social grounds.

I do agree that higher density and public transit would help make California better by my standards more than requiring rooftop solar... but at least in the higher density parts of California where I am? I don't think requiring rooftop solar will make much difference. If you have a large multi story complex, adding rooftop solar won't do a lot, but it also isn't going to add significantly to the cost of the building, just 'cause there isn't much roof compared to the rest of the building.

In the high density parts of California that I want to live in, single family homes are already the domain of the rich. Personally, that's okay with me; I don't need a single family home, and I think we should be focusing on building more condos in the high density parts of the state, and as I said, requiring the roofs to be covered with solar isn't going to significantly change the cost of building those higher density buildings.


Austin is comically liberal which is great because Ted Cruz has to drive past a bunch of communists from uta legally flashing their freedom boobies at him whenever he visits the capital building.

It's also a pretty intense flashpoint though, when those same communists exercise their Texas mandated long gun open carry rights, while wearing hammer and sickle armbands and shit.

I dunno man. You won't be hard pressed to find fellow liberals in Austin, but you're still in Texas. Ford f150s will still aggressively run your bicycle off the road, your Bernie stickers will still get you vandalized if there happens to be some sort of Republican event at the capital. It's constant idealogical warfare between the young people and the rest of the state, and not even all the young people because uta is the biggest university so all sorts end up there, including people that probably would have found more like minded colleagues at a&m.

It can be exhausting, speaking from experience.


See, that's what I like about Silicon Valley. There are a lot of crazy conservative folk here, a bunch of the people I hung around as a younger person were right-libertarian almost to the point of being anarcho-capitalist, and I still know a fair number of those types, though they aren't as common once you start working for big companies rather than startups... but they got along just fine with the socialists in the same office. And they both were okay with the immigrants who, I imagine, came away with the idea that Americans, while a little nutso if you talk about politics, are generally decent people.

But that's the thing, and what made silicon valley so much more attractive than my (rural california) hometown... nobody tries to run anyone off the road. Sure, sure, we disagree and puff and stuff, but people leave their guns at home, and the taboo against vehicular manslaughter is maintained, even if the victim is on a bicycle. We socialize in groups that cross ethnic and political boundaries.

But then, I'm one of those people for whom Texas is not a substitutable place for Silicon Valley. (New York might be. Texas is not.) I'm completely aware that there are people who prefer Texas in the same way I prefer Silicon Valley. (I'm also aware that I haven't spent a lot of time in Texas, and I'm mostly comparing rural California to Silicon Valley... but rural California has a lot of the problems Texas is perceived to have, re: big trucks aggressively running bicycles off the road and other acts of everyday terror )


I suggest you look at the recent election results so see how "diverse" the bay is politically.


Not everyone votes.

In any case, the bay area being a liberal hub isn't exactly a strike against it, considering most cities are liberal hubs, and the existence of conservative hubs means that one can't necessarily judge a place for having a cultural zeitgeist.


The bay area doesn't compare to "most cities" though. There is little tolerance for anyone who seriously expresses support for non-dem candidates.

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/12/mapping-how-americas-...


Wait, what was the point of linking that article? I read it but it just furthered my point - a ton of metro areas lean liberal.

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "little tolerance," are you saying people are being run over by cars for being conservatives? Are houses being spray painted? Are wedding cakes not being baked for Republican couples?


>Wait, what was the point of linking that article?

The bay area is the most liberal area. Comparing to other cities that happened to have liberal majorities is pointless. It's like calling a community with 3% minorities just as diverse as a community with 45% minorities.

>are you saying people are being run over by cars

If you think it requires violence to be intolerant, you need to expand your views.

>Are houses being spray painted?

Cars with Trump stickers vandalized, yes.

>Are wedding cakes not being baked for Republican couples?

I'm not sure. It would be a little hard to tell since political parties rarely show up on the cake request forms.


This is a very old debate (I mean, the 'If we are intolerant of intolerance, is does that make us intolerant ourselves?' thing) - and I'm not saying I have the answers, (and my perception is that at least before Trump, Republicans were totally acceptable) but it's really not very relevant to my point.

My point is just that Texas and California are not exactly substitutable goods, as it were. just like how there are people who would be much happier in Texas than California for non-monitary reasons, there are people who would be much happier in California than in Texas for non-monetary reasons.

My argument is just that saying that lining up Texas with California as competitors for talent is... probably not as correct as, say, lining up California and NYC.


You're assumption that Republicans represent intolerance already reveals your partisanship. It's comical that you can't even see the insanity of that equivalence.

>My argument is just that saying that lining up Texas with California as competitors for talent is... probably not as correct as

More preconceived notion crap. I suggest you lookup the city that most bay area residents moved to last year.


That is great fucking writing.


> I think the parts of Texas and California with tech jobs are... not substitutable for a large part of the tech workforce on political/social grounds.

For some part of the workforce. 15% of software developers in the US work in California. For comparison, CA has 12% of the US population.

Many folks that work in CA are from out of state and do it for career/financial reasons, not for political/social reasons. And they'd be fine with living in a suburb of Austin if it were materially more appealing than some suburb of San Francisco.

[1] https://dqydj.com/number-of-developers-in-america-and-per-st...


>Many folks that work in CA are from out of state and do it for career/financial reasons, not for political/social reasons. And they'd be fine with living in a suburb of Austin if it were materially more appealing than some suburb of San Francisco.

If I could be paid what I make in San Francisco in almost any other metropolitan city in the US I would move. The weather that people rave about sucks and the politics are rage inducing.


What I was trying to say is that most people have pretty strong preferences for the bay are or for texas. And you can induce some to switch using higher wages/lower CoL... but those preferences remain pretty strong, and for some are almost absolute. For me, I think I'd need to make about 2x the money to live in Texas; and I'm sure there's a lot of people who feel that way about coming to California. (to be clear, I'm not saying either one is better in general, just that many people, perhaps most have strong preferences one way or the other, preferences it would take significant money to overcome.)


>Many folks that work in CA are from out of state and do it for career/financial reasons, not for political/social reasons.

The fact that most folks in CA are from out of state doesn't imply that they would be just as happy in Texas. Something like 40% of our STEM workforce is from outside the country. Do you think an immigrant would be treated as well in Texas as in California? (maybe this is my prejudice showing, but everything I've seen and heard is that they would not.) add to that the developers who aren't heterosexual (or who are but who don't look it) or who aren't white, and I think you have a lot of people who... probably have good reason to stay on this side of the mason-dixon line.

(I feel the need to add a disclaimer; I've not spent a huge amount of time in Texas, and perhaps it isn't so bad, but... this perception is common, and it does mean some people won't take jobs in Texas, just like the perception that California is a nanny state where you will get fired for not being politically correct will keep many Texans out of California.)


> Do you think an immigrant would be treated as well in Texas as in California?

Yes. I would expect an immigrant living in one of Texas' cities to be treated just as well as an immigrant living in one of California's cities and same for the rural areas.


Don't baselessly stereotype an entire state. Having lived in both the bay, LA, Austin, and Dallas, I can tell you that there is no issue for immigrants or homosexuals in either of those locations.

The only difference is the sense of superiority in California echoed in your comment indicating that California is the only place with enlightened people.


Yes, they would be just fine. “Southern hospitality” really is a thing here, and our cities are much more diverse than what one might think if you haven’t visited. On my street where I live in my very affordable single-family home, we have virtually every major ethnicity represented, and everything from blue collar workers to doctors and software engineers.

Texas is different politically than California, but it is just as good a place to live for anyone coming to the Melting Pot. And in the end, both states face many of the same problems, the major cities are very similar, and the rural areas are also very similar.

Disclaimer: I live in Texas, and have lived in many other less cowboyish states, as well as living several places internationally.


I hardly think immigrants avoid Texas. In fact, just the opposite.

16% of Texas residents are immigrants. Non-hispanic whites are a minority in the state.


> I'm certainly a big fan of solar power, but rooftop solar is a little silly. Rooftop solar would make sense if we had some shortage of land and couldn't just fill up empty fields with panels, but that's not the case. It's much cheaper for utility companies to buy up big plots of land than it is to try to figure out how to outfit odd shaped surfaces with panels.

I think a ton more people generating their own power and being shown the data of how much power they're generating and using in real time is a great thing. People I know with solar panels are excited to try and run net zero and know stuff like their energy peak usage during heat waves. I don't know anyone without solar panels that monitors their energy use like that.


Rooftop solar is a double benefit in very hot locations - you get the electricity, and also shade on the conventional roof, which can greatly reduce the amount of electricity used to cool the house.

Here in AZ with rooftop solar, the shade difference is quite noticeable.


"empty fields" are nexessary ecosystems, however. Why not leave them alone?

On the flip side, not everyone wants to live in high-density housing. Why not also require single-family homes to have solar?


That electricity still has to be transported, with the attendant power loss. I don't know the economics behind it, but cheap land being so far from the destination of the electricity's major use might be a relevant factor.


What about turning, unused fields back into forests? We not only need electricity but also to cut on CO2 and have more oxygen.


What about decentralization of power sources?

Easier to survive a war or natural disasters if everyone has their own way to generate power from the sun. It would be a shame if solar power, which allows for that, wouldn't be used that way, and instead everyone just kept getting their power from a centralized source, just as before.


I'm not sure why you're getting downvoted here, as this is a pretty solid argument. Maybe not so much in California, but just look to the natural disaster in Puerto Rico. Folks who had branched out with solar panels were suddenly the only ones with power at all in their neighborhoods. California may have a better built infrastructure, but it's no stranger to natural disasters.

There's certainly efficiency to be gained from pooling our resources into a centralized power grid, but I think redundancy and protection from grid failures are also perfectly valid goals.


You're optimizing for the wrong thing.


to try to figure out how to outfit odd shaped surfaces with panels.

That's a pretty silly take. Less expensive houses have large areas of simple roof (in areas with variable climate, about ½ of the areas even face south).

The economics are worse than utility solar, but its not a puzzle how to attach them to a rooftop.


> If the state would focus on higher density living

Contrary to popular belief, the Los Angeles metro area has a very high population density. It's 2nd in the US, and the SF Bay Area is 7th. Both are on par with European metros.


Your numbers are technically correct, but a measurement along the lines of "perceived density" is probably more accurate. I would define perceived density as the density of people living in urbanized census blocks (i.e. 1000 people per square mile [0]). For example most people in the Bay Area don't live in (or even afford to) Marin County. Yet all those multi-acre properties are counted in our land measurements.

The Bay Area is basically a series of valleys where everybody lives and works, mountain ranges that are barely developed, and a large body of water right in the middle.

0: https://www.census.gov/population/censusdata/urdef.txt


Better to put it on houses where the demand is than to pollute the land with solar panels all over it.


> figure out how to outfit odd shaped surfaces with panels.

Well, if it's mandatory, then we may see roofs being developed/built that are more friendly for installing panels on. Most homes with panels had them installed years after the home was built, in many cases before "installing solar panels on your roof" was a thing people could even do on their homes.


Sure! But trusting the power companies to continue to "do the right thing" and buy up all that cheap land for solar power doesn't seem worthwhile. This certainly could read "New homes must be powered by 20% solar", of which rooftop is a viable option, but I wonder how far that legislation would go.

I'll take baby steps.


I disagree. Mandatory solar on houses is the low hanging fruit, and it's easier to address than higher density living or public transport. And it makes sense to put the otherwise unused roof space to work.

Besides that, big open plots of solar panels are an eye sore, and don't make sense when land is so expensive.


Land is less in short supply than T&D infrastructure and built environment.

Total built area is, very roughly, equivalent to solar PV insolation requirements, and at least a portion of that space (or area) is low-hanging fruit.

Undeveloped land has other potential uses, including rec, ag, and ecological ones.


Holy mixed metaphors.


> There's so much low hanging fruit (things that could kill two birds with one stone

Stonefruit, you might say.


Israel mandated roof top solar water heaters for a while (since 1980 according to [0], but essentially every building built since 1960 or so has one). It's relatively cheap, pays for itself in 3-5 years, and is carbon neutral. This stores energy as hot water, not using PV panels (such as those discussed in the article). A relatively small panel per apartment is sufficient.

I do not claim that the California directive is sensible, but it is worth comparing to a somewhat similar directive that has been in place for 40 years with great effect - reducing grid energy production by 8%, saving everyone money (if the article is to be trusted), and only being a minor eye sore ....

[0] https://www.reuters.com/article/idUS311612153620110318


Residential solar thermal no longer makes any kind of economic sense. These existing mandates only show how government regulations can serve to ossify bad practices and harm innovation.


> Residential solar thermal no longer makes any kind of economic sense.

[citation needed]


Not a citation, but when I last looked at it for a cabin, the plumbing costs, pumps, and extra stuff required in addition to the normal heater drove the cost so high that it was just cheaper to add more PV panels, which have been coming down because they are made in great volume.

Someplace without freezing weather, or someone who might just say “too cloudy too long, no warm shower today” might have a different calculus.


As far as sun goes, Israel is comparable to California, and all data I was able to find is along the lines of "8% less energy production required, 3-5 years ROI".

To me that does make economic sense, both at the state level and at the individual level; why do you call it a "bad practice"?.

AFAIK, the laws do allow PV panels instead of solar thermal. I'm not aware of any innovation harmed by such a mandate in either Israel or Portugal. Do you?


In Portugal solar water heaters are mandatory for new houses also.


This is a deeply flawed idea. As bad as LEED.

Specifying HOW to go about being energy efficient is the entirely wrong approach. Instead specify a minimum energy efficiency per square meter and let home builders sort it out.

By specifying minimum efficiencies builders are free to adopt new technologies, new methods as they come along or use alternate means which are more suitable for a specific project.

For example I live near a river and intend to use micro-hydro for my electricity. Do I still need to have solar panels? Or will the legislators need to add in a thousand exceptions to the rules?


I agree, this is ridiculous California virtue-signaling at its finest and will result in a heck of a lot of unintended consequences (just like prop 13 has) - meanwhile many of the houses in my city were built in the 30s and 40s and have plaster walls, no insulation, no heat return, single pane glass etc which results in easily 10x more energy use for heating than modern construction would, but can't be rebuilt with modern materials because of the expense and difficulty of building new homes thanks to wrongheaded legislation like this.


Not really. You can blow in insulation into walls and attic. Air seal the house. Replace the windows with better ones. These regulations do not drive up the cost to upgrade existing houses.


The current "best wall we know how to make" is sufficiently different from the existing walls that it basically becomes new construction.

Siding or brick, four to six inches of rigid foam overlapping insulation, a fully sealed waterproof, windproof membrane, structural sheathing, 2x4 or 2x6 framing, internal wallboard, latex paint.

Consider the existing state of most of those houses:

Painted sheathing or siding, 2x4 framing, fiberglass batt insulation with kraft paper vapor barrier inside the framing, wall board, latex paint.

Essentially the only piece you get to keep is the 2x4s, assuming you come at it from the inside. If you come at it from the outside, you can do marginally better by keeping the interior walls, but you also have to brace the structure while you replace the exterior sheathing since it's almost always structurally loaded.


When the regulation requires that modifications bring things up to the new code and you've got decades of regulations like that piled up the most reasonable options are touch nothing or rebuild the entire house


In most places you are not forced to upgrade everything to code just because you added insulation or new windows.


Most places are rather prudent about that stuff.

In Indiana, for example, you don't have to upgrade the electrical system if you are adding insulation, replacing windows, or replacing the roof.

You may or may not need to upgrade your electric to replace a plug, mostly because some older systems aren't grounded. It is possible to rewire a single room without upgrading the entire house.

You don't need to upgrade the plumbing while you upgrade the electrical, just like you don't need to upgrade the electrical if you are treating the asbestos (a problem my parents had with an old house built in 1918). Most times, whatever you are fixing needs to be up to code but not everything. If it weren't reasonable, it wouldn't be prudent to buy an old house without detailed upkeep and upgrade records.


Wont that insulation rot eventually since there is no water sealing?


Blow in insulation is fairly common. A small hole is drilled into the walls and cellulose fibers are pumped in. If you have water leaking through walls you have bigger problems that need to be fixed anyway.


I partly agree in principle, your idea is much better generally. But it's also tricky for government to evaluate every energy efficiency invention. When you know certain solutions work and work at scale, it makes sense to mandate them. It's like saying let's not require every home to be connected to sewage because that reduces incentives to invent new waste management systems. Some things 'just work' and make sense as a minimum building standard. Whether solar is part of that, I don't know for sure, but the notion it's useful to agree on a few basic ideas strikes true.

It's also important not to forget the economies of scale here. It can be a blessing to know you and all your competitors will need to create solar roofs, the one who builds the best standardised product at scale wins.

I'd prefer to see builders be able to choose from a set of proven standardised technologies (e.g. not just panels but also say solar water heaters) and allow an exception procedure for people like you, which allows you to showcase efficiency-equivalence... rather than for all builders to do their own thing and government having to evaluate each system individually.


My home isn't connected to sewage (or water). The municipality doesn't provide that in my low-density area. Instead I have well water and a septic field.

Require that a home has a source of electricity, water, sewage and meeds some efficiency standards but do NOT specify how those are to be met. You can issue guidelines separately, but they shouldn't be legislated.


If it’s anything like here you probably would. In Washington state, most power is generated by dams [0]. For whatever reason, most (all?) renewable energy laws in this state do not consider hydro to be renewable.

[0]: https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=WA


Energy efficiency per square meter doesn't discourage people from economizing space. In other words, people will still be able to consume more energy by building larger living spaces.

Ideally the target metric would be expressed as energy efficiency per resident occupant, but that would be significantly more challenging to enforce.


Specifying how to go about it ensures that the lobyists, former termed-out reps on the Energy Commission, and state political parties all get their appropriate kickback.


What's the problem with LEED?


It defines specifically HOW a bunch of aspects of the build are to be achieved. Even when there are vastly better options already available, or the LEED approach is inappropriate for a particular build site. It requires a bunch of gimmicks that aren't necessary or even a net negative in many cases.

Part of the LEED "energy" criterion is labeling the building as LEED. Which is absurd on its face.


Many people have expressed concern that this will make houses less affordable. That's not clear to me, at least in the case of people who borrow most of the money for their house (which is the vast majority).

The solar part of this adds about $15k to the cost of the house. That's about $75/month on a 30 year fixed mortgage at current rates.

Much of that, if not all or more, comes back in savings on the electric bill.

Doesn't that mean that for most single family home buyers the difference will mostly just be a slightly higher down payment?


Yes...$15k on a house is a non-trivial amount.


You're being optimistic. There is depreciation and maintenance cost. It also assumes a lot about the cost of electricity in the future, given how if this has any real effect it is meant to move exactly that market.


It is a great idea, as there are two other benefits:

1. Transportation of over large distances has efficiency loss on electricity and requires more cumbersome infrastructure.

2. Less heat on the neighborhood as some of that energy is absorbed into electricity instead of being bounced off to the surrounding. Having normal tiles that just absorb heat will increase the temperature of both the building and the surrounding environment. (requiring even more energy to cool off).

During the summer, NYC, especially manhattan, is famous to have 2F higher temperatures that it normally should have just because of the heat radiation from the building, pavement, and air conditioners.

Requiring a rooftop garden on large buildings is another interesting idea.


> Transportation of over large distances has efficiency loss on electricity and requires more cumbersome infrastructure.

On a rooftop, you have the more significant inefficiencies of trees and suboptimal angles. In a field, you can optimize for efficient collection, and you can even install pivoting panels (much more cheaply than on a house, anyway) which can optimize collection throughout the day.

Even if the transmission loss is larger than the gain from optimal positioning (and I doubt it is), it's all marginal compared to the maintenance difference (having a technician walk out to a panel in a field vs setting up appointments with home residents, driving out to their homes, climbing on their roofs, additional risk of injury for the technician from falls, risk of damaging homes, etc).


No affiliation with this project, but you do know that it is possible to tilt the panels. (http://www.heliowatcher.com) >We designed and built a system to automatically orient a solar panel for maximum efficiency, record data, and safely charge batteries. Using a GPS module and magnetometer, the HelioWatcher allows the user to place the system anywhere in the world without any calibration. The HelioWatcher then calculates what the sun’s current location is and orients the panel to the appropriate angle


Yes, I am aware. I mentioned it in the second sentence of my post:

> ... you can even install pivoting panels ...

And like I said in my post, installing these is cheaper and easier in a field than on every home. For one, you only need one "tilt computer" module that can determine the optimal angle for all of the panels in the field. More importantly though, moving parts will wear and break eventually, and it's a lot easier (and safer!) to walk out into the field and service them than scheduling appointments, driving to customers' property, climbing on roofs, etc.

Just for fun, I've built these. You don't even need a GPS module nor magnetometer, you just need a few light sensors, one or two small motors (depending on whether you tilt in one dimension or two), and a couple dollars' worth of standard electronic components.


California is too big to do state-level regulation. For Bay Area homes this is pretty insignificant and possibly positive (sometimes regulation might be more efficient), but adding $20-30k to houses in less-expensive parts of the state is crazy.

This should have been done at the local or regional level, if at all. California should remain one state, probably, but add regional regulatory entities between counties and the state.


> California should remain one state, probably, but add regional regulatory entities between counties and the state.

We could accomplish this by giving regional government authorities like the Association of Bay Area Governments more authority. Essentially the metropolitan areas become like city states. The state could set certain goals (reduce carbon by this much, increase housing by that much), but it would be up to regional government to specify implementation details.


The question I'd have would be should there be: 1) direct democratic participation in those authorities (elected by the residents of the area), or 2) should they be selected by the subsidiary jurisdictions (counties/cities), 3) or by the state (legislature or governor).

The state government seems dysfunctional in a lot of ways, so while maybe goals could come down from the state, the actual authorities should be 1) or 2). Maybe some combination.


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