Following California's new mandate requiring solar-powered systems for residential construction, ARCHITECT contributor Blaine Brownell highlights technologies likely to get a bump.

Renewable energy recently got an unprecedented boost. On May 9, the California Energy Commission (CEC) voted unanimously to require all new homes to be solar-powered. Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the mandate will necessitate the provision of photovoltaic systems that provide 2 to 3 kilowatts of energy, depending on house size. This requirement's modest size, about one-third to half that of a typical solar array, is presumably intended to control costs. Considering that roughly 80,000 new houses are built annually in the state, however, the subsequent demand for renewable technologies will increase dramatically. According to The New York Times, approximately 15,000 houses in California typically include solar, thus resulting in a fivefold increase in installations in less than two years.

Although the new mandate is anticipated to save home buyers money in the form of lower energy bills, the $8,000 to $10,000 additional cost for photovoltaic (PV) systems remains a concern. The CEC’s focus on new construction suggests that the use of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) could be preferential to typical standalone PV arrays. Put simply, specifying cladding products with photovoltaic capabilities could be more economical than purchasing the products separately. Although BIPVs have thus far been an atypical strategy, California’s solar decree could substantially increase the demand for integrated energy-harvesting in architecture. The following examples highlight a few BIPV technologies that represent a transforming aesthetic for buildings.

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