Sebastopol poised to add solar requirement to new construction
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
Sebastopol, the small town of 7,400 tucked next to the green hills of west Sonoma County, would seem to have little in common with Lancaster, a high desert city of 146,000 located 400 miles away in northeast Los Angeles County.
Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes is a Democrat, and the city is represented in Congress by Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat who serves on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris is a Republican, as is Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Sebastopol revels in the Apple Blossom Festival, while Lancaster, on the same weekend in April, hosts the California Poppy Festival.
But the two cities have a mutual affinity for power from the sun.
Lancaster is the first city in California to require solar power systems on all new housing developments, part of Mayor Parris’ promotion of his town as the “alternative energy capital of the world.”
Sebastopol, noted for its counterculture inclinations, appears on track to become No. 2, with a solar power requirement for new homes and commercial buildings on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“I think it is the obvious way to go,” Kyes said. “Every time you build a house you’re making the matter worse.”
Sebastopol’s measure, intended “to increase energy conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” got a hearty endorsement from Ann Hancock, executive director of the Santa Rosa-based Climate Protection Campaign
“This is what we want to see for Sonoma County,” she said, citing the goal of the county and its nine cities of dropping emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015.
“We’re in the midst of an energy revolution,” Hancock said, referring to transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy. “Bring it on.”
Sebastopol’s ordinance would require new residential and commercial buildings — as well as major additions and remodelings — to include a photovoltaic energy generation system.
The system would have to provide two watts of power per square foot of insulated building area or offset 75 percent of the building’s annual electric load.
In situations where solar power is impractical, such as shaded areas, new buildings may use other energy alternatives or pay a fee.
The measure would take effect in 60 days, but would not apply to development plans already on file with the city.
Rooftop solar power systems are fairly common in Sebastopol, which has one megawatt of solar generating capacity, Kyes said.
A megawatt is considered enough power for about 500 homes.
Kyes said he put solar panels on his 3,000-square-foot home eight years ago, cutting his power and gas bill to $10 a month. The system has paid for itself, he said.