California’s 2019 Energy Code, which goes into effect January 1, 2020, mandates photovoltaic installation for all new low-rise residential buildings. One compliance path is to allow for Community Solar to directly tie solar power into specific buildings in a development. (Adding solar power into the grid and then pulling from the grid is not permitted).

On November 13, 2019, the California Energy Commission and SMUD proposed the use of neighborhood solar for projects in SMUD territory, the first program of its kind.  The Neighborhood SolarShares Program allows developers to bypass installing solar at the site if the site can access a local community solar power array.

Key caveats include:

  • The community solar array must be installed and operational by the time the building receives certificate of occupancy.
  • Projects can combine solar roof or carport installs, for example, with community solar to meet minimum solar generation required by code.
  • An owner who wants to exceed code minimums for solar installation can add more arrays.

Due to unfavorable public opinions surrounding the community solar program, the CEC ultimately decided not to pass the motion.  Instead, they will work with SMUD to modify the program to make it more appealing to consumers.  It may take years before a neighborhood or community solar option is viable within the SMUD service area, so developers will need to focus on roof or site solar photovoltaic generation to meet the minimum Energy Design Rating (EDR) identified in the energy compliance report.

For more information on alternative compliance options for low-rise residential buildings, contact VCA Green below.

Moe Fakih, Principal

714-363-4700 x501