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San Francisco Becomes First Major City to Require Solar Panels on New Buildings

San Francisco Becomes First Major City to Require Solar Panels on New Buildings thumbnail

San Francisco is one step closer to its goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy after the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday to mandate solar installations on new buildings.


San Francisco has mandated rooftop solar panels on new buildings starting in 2017. Photo credit: Flickr

According to the San Francisco Examiner, starting Jan. 1 of next year, new commercial and residential buildings up to 10 stories high must install rooftop solar systems for heat or electricity. Buildings that are taller are exempt for now.

The famously green metropolis is now the first major city in the U.S. to legislate such a requirement. San Francisco follows the footsteps of the smaller towns of Lancaster and Sebastopol. The municipalities, which are also in California, passed similar mandates in 2013.

“This legislation will help move us toward a clean energy future and toward our city’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2025,” supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced the legislation, wrote on his Facebook page.

He added that San Francisco’s new rooftop solar law is an extension of an already established California law that requires all buildings 10 floors or less designate at least 15 percent of the rooftop for solar use.

“My legislation takes the next step by requiring that the rooftops not just be solar ready, but actually have solar panels installed,” he said.

“Solar ready” means that the roof is unshaded by the proposed building itself and free of obtrusions, Wiener explained on his website.

As the Examiner explained, the new legislation would give San Francisco’s solar capacity a big boost and help avert emissions:

To gauge the impact the mandate could have, the Department of Environment applied the proposal to construction projects in the pipeline in the third quarter of 2014 and found the 200 projects with solar installations would “avoid over 26,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.”

The current 24.8 megawatt solar systems in place would increase by 7.4 megawatts. The 7.4 megawatts of solar energy can produce 10.5 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, which can power about 2,500 San Francisco homes, [Barry Hooper, the Department of Environment Green Building Coordinator] said Tuesday.

“The Better Roofs ordinance continues to push the city as a national leader on solar policy,” Josh Arce, former president of the San Francisco Commission on the Environment, and community liaison for Laborers Local 261, a labor organization that trains solar jobseekers, said in a statement. “This legislation will expand our efforts to cover San Francisco rooftops with solar panels and tackle climate change, while also creating good jobs for our community.”

For building developers who do not want to go solar, Wiener is also working on back-up plan to allow for living roofs, or green roofs, instead of solar panels.

“Living roofs, like the one on the roof of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, provide insulation, reduce stormwater from entering the sewer, enhance biodiversity and habitat, sequester carbon, and capture pollution,” he said in a statement.

The legislation is similar to a mandate passed in France last year that all new buildings be covered in partial green roofing or solar panels.

The city is expected to debate the follow-up green roof legislation in the coming months, the Examiner reported.

California as a whole happens to be the number one solar state in the U.S. According to new statistics from the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Golden State’s 13,241 megawatts of solar capacity is capable of powering an estimated 3.32 million homes.

The state also has more solar jobs and installed more megawatts of solar capacity last year than any other state in the nation.


35 Comments on "San Francisco Becomes First Major City to Require Solar Panels on New Buildings"

  1. makati1 on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 6:41 am 

    And how many “new buildings” will be built in a city where housing costs are collapsing and Silicon Valley is in the critical stages of collapse? One? Two?


  2. Davy on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 6:54 am 

    “San Francisco is one step closer to its goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy”
    This is an admirable effort at resilience and sustainability for the wrong reasons and based on poor assumptions. They are never going to achieve a goal of 100% renewable and they should not be preaching even the possibility unless they want to preach a devolution of the status quo complete with population reductions and consumption reductions. That devolution will destroy the global system that would supply the solar panels that is the bases of their goals.

    What should they be doing? They should have goals of disaster preparedness not some fake notion of transitioning. They should be investing in renewable energy at the same time they try to change attitudes and lifestyles. The problem is the modern man way of life is non-negotiable. The greens just want to greenwash the status quo with the fake cover of clean and sustainable for that non-negotiable way of life of ever more development and technology. Renewables are not clean and they are not sustainable. Renewables have no future post oil age. That is the catch 22 trap of doom. Renewables must have oil to be renewable.

    If San Francisco wants to be truly green stop development. Reduce access for the car culture. Make laws that penalize poor attitudes and lifestyles. Make laws that eliminate the worst of the bad attitudes and lifestyles. Those policies are a degrowth policy that will destroy San Francisco’s position in the status quo.

    We complain about regulations killing us but the real problem is the basis of our modern way of life. It is the social narrative. It at its most fundamental level that is the issue. It is not the business and the money that is the problem, although that is a result, it is the core system of beliefs. It is our very culture of individualism and consumerism that must be satisfied through capitalistic markets. It is our positions that markets will solve our problems. This has gone to such an extreme we literally have no hope of ever changing it.

  3. Kenz300 on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 7:14 am 

    Wind and solar are the future….fossil fuels are the past…

    The world is moving to clean energy production with wind and solar and clean energy consumption with electric vehicles…….

    100% electric transportation and 100% solar by 2030

  4. Aaron on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 7:36 am 

    “Renewables have no future post oil age. That is the catch 22 trap of doom. Renewables must have oil to be renewable.”

    That is the most interesting aspect of our energy generation predicament. I have seen no conclusive evidence to either support or refute that claim, so as far as i’m concerned it is still an open question. Can renewables power modern civilization without the fossil fuel subsidy?

  5. dave thompson on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 8:19 am 

    Our globalized food system will not run on solar panels and wind turbines. There is nothing that will replace the energy of crude oil and it’s distilled products,nothing. Period.

  6. PracticalMaina on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 8:32 am 

    Our food system really shouldn’t be globalized, it ends up hurting local farmers because of increased competition, who can then not afford to take measures to protect themselves from production or market issues in the future. Globalized food production is what gets slave peeled shrimps into the US. BUY LOCAL!
    Most of the time huge monocrops=environmental destruction

  7. dave thompson on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 8:45 am 

    I don’t need to by local, when I can go out in the yard and dig up dandelions, the only crop now available this time of year here in the midwest.

  8. GregT on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 9:37 am 

    “Can renewables power modern civilization without the fossil fuel subsidy?”

    So called “renewables” are manufactured with fossil fuels, as are all of the gadgets that we use that electricity for, as well as the grid itself. As mentioned above, powering modern civilization is of the least of our concerns. Without fossil fuels based modern industrial agriculture to feed us all, modern civilization comes to an end. It doesn’t get any simpler.

  9. GregT on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 10:17 am 

    In addition, modern industrial society is causing untold damage to the Earth’s natural ecosystems, including climatic instability. Even with the continued burning of fossil fuels, growing enough food to sustain our populations will continue to become more and more problematic as time goes on. Too many people, using up dwindling non-renewable ‘resources’, while compromising our one and only life support system, does not bode well for the future of humanity, never mind for modern industrial society.

  10. Boat on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 11:51 am 

    Renewables are a cleaner way to supply energy. Renewables have the potential to cut the need for FF dramatically.
    Renewables don’t need but a fraction of water usage compared to Ff. Going forward renewables will dominate new energy production.

  11. dave thompson on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 12:08 pm 

    Renewable how? Without FF inputs solar panels and wind turbines do no exist. The energy produced from wind turbines and solar panels will not produce concrete or steel. Where does plastic and glass come from? Not from spinning yarns of “renewable energy”

  12. Boat on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 12:29 pm 


    Who is saying FF won’t be around. The yarn you suggest is lack of oil. Plenty of oil and plenty of demand. Kuwait discovered a couple of new fields and plans to add another 1 mbopd by 2020. Iran plans to add as much.

  13. dave thompson on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 12:55 pm 

    Boat, FF will be around yes I agree. How much will be around is open for debate. Are you pay attention at all to what I am talking about? The article is about putting up solar panels and transitioning away from FF. Never mind if you do not get it.

  14. Boat on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 1:32 pm 


    “Renewable how? Without FF inputs solar panels and wind turbines do no exist. The energy produced from wind turbines and solar panels will not produce concrete or steel. Where does plastic and glass come from? Not from spinning yarns of “renewable energy””

    This is just a tired old talking point that is irevelant. Of course renewables use FF along the supply chain to make all the parts for their products. Who thinks any different.
    Renewable is is just a catchy name for energy producing products that have no emissions.

  15. Steve on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 2:07 pm 

    Is that even legal?

  16. Sissyfuss on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 3:51 pm 

    If renewables use ff to allow their manufacture, then they are producing emissions.

  17. Davy on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 3:59 pm 

    Right Sis, there is no free lunch and those who promote alternatives as zero emissions are using faulty reasoning. The costs of capital, resources, and the waste streams are loaded upfront and must be amortized out over the life of the component. They also must be applied properly to maximize their cost to benefit. The other cost related to them like a generation source to offset their variability is part of that application cost. An updated grid to accomodate alternatives likewise.

  18. GregT on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 4:28 pm 

    And those who call alternates renewable are also using faulty reasoning. Not only is the word renewables misleading, it is plain and simply incorrect.

    More mindless propaganda for the mindless masses.

  19. onlooker on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 4:50 pm 

    Yes guys thanks for pointing that out to the cornucopians who put their faith in a Renewable Revolution. Fossil fuels should have been used as a bridge to a permanent Renewable energy infrastructure. Fossil fuels would have enabled the Renewable infrastructure and would have been used in a controlled and limited manner for a few more energy intensive applications. Combined with population control and we could have had a prosperous and not overly populated world. Instead, we have a overpopulated world completely designed to function with fossil fuels. Those same which now are in their depletion phase and we have NO robust Renewable infrastructure and probably never will.

  20. JuanP on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 7:19 pm 

    The idea of building new structures in cities the size of San Francisco is insane! Cities that big need to become smaller, not larger. No new building should be allowed. Whether they put PV panels on the rooftops or not is irrelevant.

  21. Harquebus on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 8:32 pm 

    The bullshit never stops.

    “Polysilicon production produces about four tons of silicon tetrachloride liquid waste for every ton of polysilicon produced.”


    “Models often limit their life cycle or EROI analysis to just the solar panels themselves, which represents only a third of the overall energy embodied in solar PV plants. These studies left out dozens of energy inputs, leading to overestimates of energy such as payback time of 1-2 years.

  22. Dave Thompson on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 10:08 pm 

    Harquebus, great links to show and illustrate just some of the “renewable” transitional energy issues.

  23. GregT on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 10:28 pm 

    I’d be willing to bet that very few, if any, of the above posters have installed alternate energy systems in their homes. I have three, soon to be four, separate PV systems.

  24. makati1 on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 11:15 pm 

    GregT, it is a bit hard to install those things in a rented apartment, but the farmhouse will definitely have solar electric and water. And, the water will be gravity fed from 500 gallon tanks on the 2nd floor, filled by the rain from the roof over them.

    It rains an average of 10 feet per year at the farm and it is pretty much evenly distributed over the year. Construction starts next April. Fall back is two springs on the property that have not gone dry in the last 20+ years. And if all else fails, the river is just 300 yards down the hill. No water problems. All else is not important where there is no cold weather to worry about and the growing season never stops.

    Sounds like your preps will be enough and then some. Good for you!

  25. apneaman on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 1:21 am 

    It’s a little late for solar panels.

    9 mins of this vid will explain why. It’s physics and cannot be stopped.

    “I discuss the state of Arctic sea ice. Will we have a blue-ocean event this summer, or in the next few years? What are the global implications if this happens? How will the climate system rearrange, and what will happen next? I ponder these extremely important questions, that will affect all people on our planet. Most people are oblivious to what is coming quickly, and will soon reach a state of panic.”

  26. onlooker on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 1:55 am


    Links / Resources
    Contact Us
    Related Videos


    Register For News Updates:


    Why Is Arctic Methane An Emergency?

    The reason, in one word, is RUNAWAY.

    Runaway is a descriptive term for what the scientists call abrupt irreversible rapid global warming, which would be global climate catatsrophe. It involves tipping points.

    A 2012 paper By Prof C Duarte says The Arctic could Trigger Domino Effect Around the World.

    The science says it can happen (IPCC 2007), but it is not included in the linear projecting climate models.

    Abrupt climate change encompasses two extreme results of Arctic warming- abrupt cooling can happen (thermohaline circulation change) and abrupt warming (+ve Arctic feedbacks). This page covers the warming process. Abrupt climate warming could be over 10 years or more than100 years.

    The major risks to society and environment from climate change are posed primarily by abrupt and extreme climate phenomena. Potential forms of abrupt change include […] widespread melting of permafrost leading to large-scale shifts in the carbon cycle. Abrupt and extreme phenomena can exceed the thresholds for ecological and societal adaptation through either the rapid rate or magnitude of the associated climate change [IPCC 2007].

    The US is conducting research abrupt warming situations under the Investigation of the Magnitudes and Probabilities of Abrupt Climate Transitions (IMPACTS) Project out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This includes the following topics.
    Boreal/Arctic-climate positive feedbacks.

    Rapid destabilization of methane hydrates in Arctic Ocean sediments; and Mega droughts in North America, including the role of biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks.

    The background information confirms these are all real risks with continued warming, What is not addressed is that these would be mutually reinforcing.

    The Arctic responds to global warming by increasing the rate of warming through several feedback processes, which, if allowed to become established, will inevitably lead to uncontrollable accelerating global warming or what for many years has been called “runaway” climate change. This is not to be confused with the scientific term “runaway greenhouse effect” or Venus syndrome.

    There are two general, very large feedback processes in the Arctic that definitely will increase as global warming continues. One is melting Arctic ice and the other is emitting Arctic methane. The loss of ice will definitely increase the emission of Arctic methane to the atmosphere, which makes the Arctic sea ice meltdown the big planetary emergency.

    “Runaway” is an apt description as runaway climate change is the result of the combined three following inevitabilities:
    Radiative forcing from combined, cumulative, industrial GHG emissions
    Climate system inertia (lag time between emission and impact of GHGs)

    Increased radiative forcing and inertia from multiple feedbacks

    We all know about the rapid meltdown of the Arctic summer sea ice. It has long been known that the vast expanse (2.5 million square miles before industrial atmopsheric GHG pollution) of the year-round Arctic sea ice acts in the summer as a cooling influence to the Arctic region, northern hemisphere and to some extent the whole global climate. Its loss in the summertime will lead to additional warming.

    This emergency to our planet’s biosphere comes from multiple positive Arctic climate feedback processes, each of which affects the whole biosphere and each of which will increase the rate of global warming / temperature increase. Atmospheric temperatures are rising faster in the Arctic than in other regions.

    Already today, all the potentially huge Arctic positive climate feedbacks are operating.

    The Arctic summer sea ice is in a rapid, extremely dangerous meltdown process. The Arctic summer ice albedo loss feedback (i.e., open sea absorbs more heat than ice, which reflects much of it) passed its tipping point in 2007 – many decades earlier than models projected, and scientists now agree the Arctic will be ice free during the summer by 2030. However, that is not to say it couldn’t happen very much earlier.

    Models of sea ice volume indicate a seasonally ice-free Arctic likely by 2015, and possibly as soon as the summer of 2013.

    Such a collapse will inexorably lead to an accelerated rate of Arctic carbon feedback emissions of methane from warming wetland peat bogs and thawing permafrost.

    The retreat of sea ice appears to be leading to the most catastrophic feedback process of all. This is the venting of methane to the atmosphere from frozen methane gas hydrates on the sea floor of the Arctic continental shelf.

    At the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco from 5-9 December 2011, there was a session on Arctic Gas Hydrate Methane Release and

    Climate Change at which Dr. Igor Semiletov of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences reported dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas that is over 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide for 20 years after emission – were seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region. This has been reported by UK’s Independent newspaper and copied by news agencies around the world and in a number of online blogs.

    All of these Arctic feedbacks are described in detail in the 2009 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications.

    If methane release from Arctic sea floor hydrates happens on a large scale — and this year’s reports suggest that it will — then this situation can start an uncontrollable sequence of events that would make world agriculture and civilization unsustainable. It is a responsible alarm, not alarmist, to say that it is a real threat to the survival of humanity and most life on Earth.” Geoengineering anyone? That is the desperate proposal of scientists now.

  27. makati1 on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 4:30 am 

    Ap and onlooker, I think those who worry about the life of their solar panels should breath easier knowing that we may not have 20 years to worry about it. Or anything to use it on if we do survive that long. There are few electrical gadgets that will last anywhere near that long and they will not be replaced.

    Just the ice melt on Greenland could end globalism and most of the world we currently know and love. What will 20+ feet of water rise do to all of the cities around the world where most of the population live? Not to mention the Antarctic ice shelf. Over 220 feet of ocean rise is stored in all that ice. Turn up the heat and it could happen in a few years. Add in the 30-40 volcanoes under the ice there and it could unzip in a few weeks.

  28. makati1 on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 4:39 am 

    Ap and onlooker, I think those who worry about the life of their solar panels should breath easier knowing that we may not have 20 years to worry about it. Or anything to use it on if we do survive that long. There are few electrical gadgets that will last anywhere near that long and they will not be replaced.

    Just the ice melt on Greenland could end globalism and most of the world we currently know and love. What will 20+ feet of water rise do to all of the cities around the world where most of the population live? Not to mention the Antarctic ice. Over 220 feet of ocean rise is stored in all that ice. Turn up the heat and it could happen in a few years. Add in the 30-40 volcanoes under the ice there and it could unzip in a few weeks.

    As the oceans rise, they add a lot of new weight onto the ocean floor that has not been there for 10,000 years or more. That causes volcanoes and quakes around the Ring of Fire to increase. It also opens up new quakes in places that has not seen them in our history as the land under the glaciers lift from loss of ice pushing down on them. We can only guess at the timeline of events. Decades? Years? Weeks? Who knows, but the process seems to be unstoppable and gaining speed.

    I didn’t even mention the super storms in my novel, but I’m starting to rant like that Ozark Redneck wannabee.

    Sorry for the rant. I did a lot of research for my novel Midpoint about that topic. But the facts are there to verify, if you doubt.

  29. makati1 on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 4:40 am 

    Sorry about the double entry. Not sure how it happened and you cannot delete here.

  30. Davy on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 5:13 am 

    My solar capacity:

    One solar system for the barn and work area.

    One solar system as backup for the grazing system fence.

    One planned for cabin.

    Planning for back up well pumps run by solar for grazing system.

    How’s that Greg? It is never too late for solar panels.

  31. Davy on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 6:01 am 

    This abrupt climate event will have two serious implications for humanity. One is the food chain and the other is the loss of coastal areas. The disruption from these two events will be enough to push the fragile global economic system into irreversible decline and probably not long after a collapse to a new and different human arrangement.

    Peak oil dynamics and the global financial system are likewise another predicament. These appear to be a nearer term danger but there is no way to know because there is no historical precedence. What does appear to be happening is a converging of a “Triade of Doom” of abrupt climate change, peak oil, and global system decay. It appears within the next decade all of these issues will converge and cause a negative feedback loop of decline and failure systematically.

    This is a process with events but the important point is process. It is the approach of thresholds and events where the turbulence occurs. With turbulence there will be known effects and random unknowns occurring. If one reflects on our current civilization with its food chain, energy chain, and economy to manage both we see a system already at limits. This system is already stressed by diminishing returns of every aspect of it. A system in this state is in no position to handle the changes ahead.

    We can talk a decade away or less but it is very likely just the approach of these problems and their minor sprouting problems in aggregate will be enough to push us past our threshold of systematic collapse into our own abrupt civilization change. It appears we are going to suffer a thousand pricks that are going to cause our civilization to break to a lower level. How far and how quick are important because the survivability of a species is dictated by its degree and duration of a fall. It is also dictate by the species health when this process/event start.

    How can you characterize the human situation now? We are such a big species and civilization now. We are multiple smaller civilizations all the way down to millions of locals. What we can say is many are in overpopulation risk and many in overconsumption risk. Many have the combination of both. Over consumption risk is a dependence on high levels of complexity and energy for survival. You know what overpopulation is. Combine those and we have a dangerous situation.

    All major global urban areas have both. Many rural areas located near these overshoot areas are at significant risk. Most all areas are at risk because their local sustainability and resilience has been delocalized by globalism and have to some degree exposure to a loss of global support.

    With the above danger society should be focusing not on transition or status quo. We need to be focusing on a collapse process with a likely event that will turn our world upside down. We have the opportunity now to make hugely important decisions that will make us more fit for a collapse. Small things now can be leveraged into big things later. We have a huge complex society now that can produce immense amounts of goods and services. This will decay rapidly. Before the decay we should be establishing efforts to prepare as if we were making a trip to the moon.

    Once the collapse process is in full swing it will be a period of cannibalization of existing networks and infrastructure, salvage of resources and equipment, and adaption to new ways which will be the old ways premodern man. We have created so much we will have much to use as the economic system fail to produce. This equates into a process of entering a collapse and feeding on ourselves post collapse. I think that would be a Petri dish experiment if I remember biology 35 years ago.

    This will be a one way trip of no return once started. Once we take meaningful steps the status quo will decay and die. The status quo is unfit for change so acceptance of collapse is a prerequisite. Get out of your head you will have what you have now. In crisis there is change and this is our only hope and this hope is for less pain and suffering. There is no hope for the current arrangement of complexity and population. Both will HAVE to fall significantly. This fall is debatable with time and amount of change but it is likely in a short amount of time our world will be unrecognizable because globalism will end rapidly. The 24/7/365 just in time when you want it life will be gone overnight.

    You can hype climate change, peak oil, and economic collapse but it is the convergence process that is the issue. It is the simple math of a species in overshoot adjusting to a new ecosystem. There is no hope for modern society but there is hope in the collapse process that many of us can have better lives longer.

  32. GregT on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 9:35 am 

    Got solar Practical?

    I do, and I am very well aware of it’s limitations, and that if oil were taken out of the equation tomorrow, I would be very fortunate if my batteries, charging systems, inverters, and electronic gadgetry would all last out the next decade. The word ‘renewable’ is a misnomer, and in no way reflects the reality of solar PV alternate energy production.

  33. apneaman on Fri, 29th Apr 2016 7:30 pm 

    I love weasels. Not politicians, lawyers, the oil industry, the church, marketing people, the MSM and planty. I mean actual weasels.

    Weasel Apparently Shuts Down World’s Most Powerful Particle Collider

    “A small mammal has sabotaged the world’s most powerful scientific instrument.

    The Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile superconducting machine designed to smash protons together at close to the speed of light, went offline overnight. Engineers investigating the mishap found the charred remains of a furry creature near a gnawed-through power cable.”

    R.I.P my furry friend.

    You did more than any ape to take the cancer down.

    My hero.

  34. Kenz300 on Sun, 1st May 2016 4:56 am 

    Stock holders of fossil fuel companies should be up in arms………… their investments are worth less now ………..
    Fossil fuels companies should have begun transforming their companies into”ENERGY” companies by embracing alternative energy sources like wind and solar….. they could have started doing this 30 years ago and reduced the loss to their stock holders. Lying to investors is illegal………

    BP was on that path years ago and then a change in management moved them away from transforming (BEYOND PETROLEUM) and they sold off their alternative energy investments………

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