Thousands of new rooftops are going up in hot, sunny places from Riverside to the Central Valley. Done a little differently, they could be solar collectors, absorbing energy from the sun.
Aiming to create more progressive homebuilding, state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City) proposes requiring large-scale developers to install solar systems in a percentage of houses starting in 2006.
It costs more to retrofit a house with solar than to build in the system during construction. A built-in is also more effective because developers can position houses and landscaping to maximize collection of rays. With the expense folded into the purchase price, homeowners can amortize the cost over the life of the mortgage. The systems have become more reliable and now commonly come with 25-year warranties.
On that much all sides agree, but the California Building Industry Assn. typically opposes new construction mandates on energy efficiency and safety, and this case is no exception. The association quotes a $20,000 figure for a new solar installation, which is actually the retrofit price. The group says houses would never sell with so much added on. More realistically, the trade group points out that new houses already are the most energy-efficient and argues that greater energy savings could be obtained by caulking and insulating older, more energy-wasteful buildings.