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California Set to Require Solar on Most New Homes

Solar panels being installed on Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. U.S. Air Force photo / Lou Hernandez

California could become the first state in the country to require solar panels on most new homes.

The state's energy commission will vote on the new standard on Wednesday, May 9 and they are expected to approve it, the Orange County Register reported.


If approved, the mandate would apply to all houses, condos and apartment buildings up to three stories tall that obtain building permits after Jan. 1, 2020. The exception will be for homes that are shaded by trees or buildings or have a roof too small to accommodate solar panels.

The plan will not require the home to reach "net-zero" status, which means the total amount of energy consumed is equal to the amount of renewable energy created. But homebuilders who install a battery, like a Tesla Powerwall, will get a "compliance credit" that allows them to further reduce the size of the solar array.

The standards could add $25,000 to $30,000 to the construction costs compared with homes built to the 2006 code, C.R. Herro, the vice president of environmental affairs for Meritage Homes, told the Orange County Register. Herro added that the homeowner will save an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 in reduced operating costs over the solar system's 25-year lifespan.

However, critics warn the new mandate could worsen the state's housing shortage by making homes more unaffordable. Other detractors argue that the proposal does not go far enough, and that California should mandate net-zero homes.

The Golden State, with 19.8 gigawatts of solar PV capacity, is the nation's undisputed solar champion (it has five-times the capacity of second-ranked North Carolina.) About 15 to 20 percent of new single-family homes in California currently include solar installations.

Two years ago, San Francisco became the first major city in the U.S. to require all buildings 10 floors or less to designate at least 15 percent of the rooftop for solar use. The famously green metropolis was following in the footsteps of the smaller towns Lancaster and Sebastopol. The municipalities, which are also in California, passed similar mandates in 2013.

California has emerged as an environmental warrior in recent years. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Air Resources Board are leading a coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia in suing the Trump administration for blocking greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles that aimed to reduce air pollution and curb U.S. drivers' contributions to the global climate crisis.

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"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

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"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

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Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.