How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

People are always getting granite counters, hardwood floors, cherry cabinets, etc... added to their new homes. All are aesthetically nice, but don't really keep their value. Solar panels on the other hand keep on giving especially when energy prices go up. Is there any good reason NOT to at least mandate offering solar panels?
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Comments

  • arkieoscararkieoscar Solar Expert Posts: 101 ✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Just mandating decent insulation would be a large step forward. Much more bang for the buck. Most new houses are terrible in efficiency.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    As we say around here... Your first three places to spend your money is on Conservation, Conservation, and more Conservation...

    Solar Hot Water is probably a better "investment" than Grid Tie Solar for most people... However, maintenance can be a nightmare (imagine plumbing issues x 10--between plumbing, leaks, pumps, controller issues, etc.).

    Off Grid Solar Electric (and/or battery backed up solar) does not compete with utility power pricing at this time...

    And, when you start looking at neighborhoods--having good siting for solar panels is not always a given--between issues of shading by buildings and neighbor/city trees, and just that 2/3rd's of the country does not have an abundance of sun like the US SouthWest does--all reduce available solar output (and drive up costs).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,433 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    A well integrated energy code, that mandates strict conservation, rewards energy efficient design, and provide incentive for same, and then incentives for solar, be it PV or domestic hot water or space heat.

    Mandates are a tough one.

    Tony
  • MoeMoe Solar Expert Posts: 60 ✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Mandates are a good way to ensure a lot of inappropriate and mediocre solar installations that give the industry a bad name.
  • VolcanoSolarVolcanoSolar Solar Expert Posts: 56
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Hawaii just passed a law that all new housing be equipped with solar hot water. It takes effect in 2010.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    this is indeed a great thought, just imagine how much greenhouse emmissions and CO2 emissions we will be saving. i think it should be in the law!
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Probably about as much as the US Government for E85 (85% Ethanol) car fleets... They buy larger cars/engines/poorer fuel economy with E85 engines and then exempt many/most of their own agencies from using E85 because of shortages/costs/distance from available sources--and end up emitting more CO2 than a fleet of normal, smaller, gasoline based cars...

    California's State Government is going through a similar exercise to reduce green house gases... Fortunately, it is still only on paper for the moment:
    Dishonest debate
    Credible climate policy skeptics are ignored

    December 8, 2008


    On Friday, the California Air Resources Board will decide whether to adopt its “scoping plan” for the implementation of AB 32, the 2006 anti-global warming law. It requires state energy suppliers to use far more power from cleaner but more costly sources.

    ...Far from burdening the economy, the forced transition to new sources of power would touch off a statewide boom as California companies become world leaders in alternate energy and as businesses benefit from efficient new technologies.

    The ARB's scoping plan confirms this rosy view. Now, however, several highly credible authorities have emerged to shred these claims.

    First, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office – the most respected voice in Sacramento – issued a Nov. 17 analysis that said the ARB's methodology was deeply flawed and often ignored evidence that would counter the economic-boom thesis. Its most startling finding was that the ARB arbitrarily defined any reduction in greenhouse gas emission as being cost-effective. If, say, energy costs double for a small business because of AB 32, how is that possibly cost-effective?

    Then came the release of a scathing “peer review” of the scoping plan. Harvard's Robert Stavins wrote that the ARB's “economic analysis is terribly deficient in critical ways” and could not be relied on. Janet Peace and Liwayway Adkins of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change wrote that the analysis “gives the appearance of justifying the chosen package of regulatory measures rather than evaluating it.” Wesleyan University's Gary Yohe wrote it was “almost beyond belief” that the agency could claim vast economic gains and decried the “spurious precision” of its forecasts. UCLA's Matthew Kahn noted the considerable evidence contradicting the ARB's claims that manufacturers, who employ 1.5 million Californians, would not be hurt by higher energy costs. Dallas Burtraw of the Resources for the Future group said the models used by the ARB underestimate costs, wrongly anticipate a “frictionless,” easy transition to new energy sources and are in troubling “harmony” about the economic upside of the scoping plan. ...
    There are a lot of things being done now that will not help--and probably make things a whole lot worse if government mandates continue.

    If it does not make sense to spend your own money on something--It probably does not make sense to spend the government's money either (or mandate that you spend your money anyway).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,433 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    "If it does not make sense to spend your own money on something--It probably does not make sense to spend the government's money either (or mandate that you spend your money anyway)."

    -Bill

    Bill,

    I have to respectfully disagree. There are times, for reasons that go beyond the raw short term economics where spending government money on a project makes sense well out or proportion to it's cost. Be it (some) of the projects of the 1930's that have proved to be of great benefit to society. (TVA, BPA, REA come to mind) These projects (and others) came at considerable cost at a time when money was not easy to find, and they not only served to soften the blow(s) of the depression, they created a long term legacy that we all enjoy the benefits of today. (I don't want to argue here whether or not the New Deal really "cured" the depression at this point however).

    It would make no sense for me to finance the space program, but the fact that the government did, allow us to use the vast network of satellites for a multitude of purposes. We also use the benefits of that program every time we post on this site using our computer and the net. (Not to mention the PV solar many of us tout!)

    There is ample anecdotal evidence that when mandates are used, the costs do indeed come down, in spite of the objections of manufactures to the contrary. How many times have (did) we hear from the Auto companies that the couldn't (choose your mandate, seat belts, cat converters, clean air, air bags,,,,,whatever) provide without raising the price so high that American's couldn't buy cars. Current recession not withstanding, I believe we buy~16,000,000 per annum on average! Same with home builders associations saying that energy codes would kill the homebuilding industry.

    I apologize for not being able to provide a citation, but an very interesting thing happened when California mandated energy standards for Fridges. After much gnashing of teeth, the manufacturers got serious and build better fridges. In north america, if you track the cost of new fridges, vs their efficiency, you find that the price has come DOWN while their efficiency has gone UP! Manufacturers realized that if they wanted to play on the biggest field in the world (the California market) the would have to step up,,, and they did.

    So, as I stated in an earlier post, a cogent, coherent, energy code based on science that gives proper incentives to use less energy is in fact good public policy. Most of us know that for a variety of reasons we all must ultimately use less conventional energy as time goes forward. IMHO the current price collapse of energy is a bad thing! (Understanding that many people have trouble paying their bills!) Low energy prices discourage conservation and alternative. It is tough to sell PV solar that cost $.20 kwh when we can burn coal or gas to get $.05kwh.

    Sorry if this is verging on being too political.

    Tony
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Tony,

    I don't mind well thought-out, sincere, polite political discussions (obviously, I enjoy them)--but our host does not want political discussions board here as they can quickly get out of hand--this is NAWS' business support/discussion forum... I will lead by not saying anything more. :cool:

    Sincerely,
    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,433 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Bill,

    I agree 100%, Please delete my previous post if it is out of bounds!

    As always, thanks for being around,

    Tony
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    tony,
    i disagree that fridges have come down in price and you are right in being borderline with the subject matter, but you kept it relevant enough for it to not be deleted imho.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,433 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Niel,

    Like I said, I can't cite where I read it, but if you look on a cubic ft basis,the price has come down at least relative to inflation in the last 20 years. The reality is most household fridges have gotten bigger at a similar price I believe.

    Tony

    PS I'll try not to cross the line!
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    i still disagree. do you have any comparison data from say 20 years ago to now? i think it crept up somewhat even though not by leaps and bounds for the same cu ft, but minimumly it at least stayed in the same range and did not drop in price. if one adjusts for inflation, then you may have a point.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,433 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    As I said,, I don't remember where I saw the stat. I will do a bit of research and get back to you if I find anything.

    T
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.
    arkieoscar wrote: »
    Just mandating decent insulation would be a large step forward. Much more bang for the buck. Most new houses are terrible in efficiency.
    this is also true, we need to have houses that are great in efficiency and and proper insulation can only help in having that efficiency perfect!
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    I have never believed in mandates.

    I'd rather see meaningful homeowner/manufacturer financial incentives, less P & Z/Building Code red tape and nationally promoting which products offer the most energy efficiency/lower costs. The extensive use of conservation materials combined with off grid solar was an easy decision.

    I have a well insulated Rastra, solar powered house, triple pane windows and so on. A combination of tax incentives and lower operating costs offset the marginal higher construction costs not mention preserving an independant lifestyle.

    Helping me (and my supppliers) lower my cost of living by rewarding well informed best conservation practices motivates a lot more than demanding I do it or else.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • Chuck46Chuck46 Solar Expert Posts: 95
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    I dont like mandates at all but I feel some better incentives could be offered at the state and federal level the one they currently offer in some states (i.e.: Arizona) could be better. AZ only allows up to $1000. one time for each address for most solar stuff. This is a pitance considering the cost one can indure. If we really want to change our world lets improve the credits etc. for solar, wind and energy saving items. Mandating something just puts the goverment in the building of my home. Credits for energy conservation and solar needs to be improved to a resonable/affordable level. IMHO
    Chuck:D
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Your comments are right on Chuck.

    Considering the hot air State and local government are expending in the name of alternative energies the tax incentives sure don't reflect it. I'm in Arizona and can attest to that.

    In my Off Grid case, I don't want the grid anywhere near the ranch. But, to get the best incentives you have to be hooked to it. I'm not willing to forgo land conservation for grid tie incentives and had to settle for less incentives.

    Getting serious about meaningful consumer financial incentives will yield faster results.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    In 2004, spain had made it mandatory for all the new houses to have solar panels, this year Hessian town of Marburg in germany has decided to make the installation of solar panels compulsory on all new buildings, and any older ones which are renovated or altered. Northern Ireland has made Solar or wind power mandatory, but there is still need of third world countries to come in front and make such things necessary, coz that is the only way we can you our natural resources with out harming the nature
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Moved this thread to here as a seed for open discussions--including the political...

    Lets see if we can change minds and be polite at the same time. :cool:

    -Bill
    Windsun wrote: »
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    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • hillbillyhillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Ok, I'll dip a toe in these turbulent waters, hopefully not to be swept up into a raging torrent :)
    First of all, I agree in very rough principal with the common sentiment against mandates. The problem as I see it, is that often times in many cases until there is a hard fast law mandating something, most people will NOT change. There could be many ways to look at this, and many possible forms of legislation (including incentives ideally) that could have a positive effect. I've always liked the idea of having a minimum contribution energy wise for ALL new construction. The additional costs are there for sure, but on the other hand I don't think that an additional cost is so unreasonable, given the additional impact that will be generated by any new home, store, warehouse, or manufacturing plant.
    Here in California for example, I think that a certain number of PVwatts per square foot of all new developments would be both reasonable and very positive. If a family of 3 can afford to build a new 5,000 square foot house on the hill, then they can certainly afford to put up a major array of solar panels to help offset some of their future power needs. I think that a lot of times any discussion about alternative/renewable energy solutions ends up focusing on the limitations of that particular resource and how it could not sustain ALL of our power needs. I think that it's better to look at this more as a way of minimizing our current demands on the grid, and further diversify our power supplies.
    I'm all for increased incentives and such, but I'm too much of a cynic to believe that would really be sufficient to push things forward. The fundamental issue that I see under all of this is that most people have no idea the real costs of energy, and what impact they have on the rest of the world when they crank up the AC or buy a new 64" TV... etc. So I am all for people being mandated to pay something upfront before they go building a new Mc-mansion, perhaps it might just make a few thousand more people think a bit further about their own impacts and how to reduce them.
    my humble hilly opinions anyways...
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    It is mandates and redistribution programs (funded by "progressive" taxes and utility rates--at least in California) that fund these energy programs--then something happens and bang--it kills another industry for 10-20 years (or forever)...

    From the RSS Feed a NYTimes article:

    Solar Power Rebate Program Is a ‘Victim’ of Its Own Success

    Well--duh... Take money via over taxed and over regulated (but what once was profitable) market, and give it with few strings attached to another market--we probably will end up with both of them (conventional utility power and solar based industries) slaughtered (again--similar things happened in the 1970's and around 2000--at least in California):
    IT’S the good news-bad news dilemma. Connecticut’s rebate program for home and business owners who purchase solar systems to generate electricity has become so popular, money has run out for some residential rebates, and rebate applications for commercial, government and nonprofit groups are being cut off next month.
    Well gee--take money from productive people during good times... And what happens during the bad times:
    Aside from leaving people in a solar lurch, success is also breeding widespread concern that unless money is injected into the program, the momentum built up over its four-year life will be lost, taking with it some of the dozens of companies and hundreds of jobs it created. Many fear that would put a damper on the growth of so-called green-collar jobs, which they also see as a key to reversing the economic downturn.

    “We don’t want to be in position to put together all this wonderful momentum and then tell them we can’t sustain them: ‘Go away,’ ” said Michael Trahan, executive director of Solar Connecticut, an industry group. “That’s a serious hiccup that will take years to fix.”
    Plus, this is dumping money in a place that may not be really good for solar power in the first place... put 4kW of panels in Hartford Ct. you get 4,600 kWhrs per year... In Daggett Ca. you will get 6.8kWhr per year... Or 67% more energy for the same free market investment...

    And you end up with programs that exclude the people that paid for funding it, and could afford to install it--and include people that can't afford the subsidy (and should probably not enroll--renters, people who need to move because of lost jobs, etc.):
    Most of the money, however, is still available for a recently unveiled lease program in which homeowners essentially rent a solar system. But its appeal has been limited by an income cap that excludes wealthier people and because there are costs at the end of the lease. Some people also just prefer to buy.
    And like most government programs, the feelings were right--but that darn old law of "unexpected" consequences (and no responsibly when things go belly-up):
    “We are paying consequences now.”

    Because of stages in the application process, it is not always clear how much money has been committed, Ms. Dondy said. “Could we have done it better?” she said. “Probably.”
    Wait, who was Ms. Dondy?:
    “We’re victims of our own success,” said Lise Dondy, president of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which runs the solar rebate program.
    Where should the money have been spent... Well, how about:

    Maybe--Passive Houses
    :
    DARMSTADT, Germany — From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District, with wreaths on the doors and Christmas lights twinkling through a freezing drizzle. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.

    In Berthold Kaufmann’s home, there is, to be fair, one radiator for emergency backup in the living room — but it is not in use. Even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann’s new “passive house” and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer.
    ...
    The concept of the passive house, pioneered in this city of 140,000 outside Frankfurt, approaches the challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies.

    And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses.

    Decades ago, attempts at creating sealed solar-heated homes failed, because of stagnant air and mold. But new passive houses use an ingenious central ventilation system. The warm air going out passes side by side with clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with 90 percent efficiency.
    But, as people try "new things", there is always a stumbling block...
    Nabih Tahan, a California architect who worked in Austria for 11 years, is completing one of the first passive houses in the United States for his family in Berkeley. He heads a group of 70 Bay Area architects and engineers working to encourage wider acceptance of the standards. “This is a recipe for energy that makes sense to people,” Mr. Tahan said. “Why not reuse this heat you get for free?”

    Ironically, however, when California inspectors were examining the Berkeley home to determine whether it met “green” building codes (it did), he could not get credit for the heat exchanger, a device that is still uncommon in the United States. “When you think about passive-house standards, you start looking at buildings in a different way,” he said.

    Buildings that are certified hermetically sealed may sound suffocating. (To meet the standard, a building must pass a “blow test” showing that it loses minimal air under pressure.) In fact, passive houses have plenty of windows — though far more face south than north — and all can be opened.
    Even one of the posters here ran into similar issues with building a small development and could not get bank loans for "non-conventional" green techniques (could not find thread at the moment).

    It isn't here (in the US) yet (the heat exchangers have been here for years--as far as I know--unless there is something special about the German ones, and my double pane vinyl retrofit windows are pretty nice--no obvious breezes through them):
    But the sophisticated windows and heat-exchange ventilation systems needed to make passive houses work properly are not readily available in the United States. So the construction of passive houses in the United States, at least initially, is likely to entail a higher price differential.

    Moreover, the kinds of home construction popular in the United States are more difficult to adapt to the standard: residential buildings tend not to have built-in ventilation systems of any kind, and sliding windows are hard to seal.
    In the end, letting people have more of their own money to spend on things that make sense--and getting government out of the way--will probably help a lot more than throwing money at something for a couple of years...

    However, from the article, it would be nice to know exactly what the details are...

    A hair drier worth of power, running 24 hours per day:

    1.5kW * 24 = 36 kWhrs per day, or 1,018 kWhrs per month

    That is not a small amount of power--but it is one of the problems with trying to understand technical/societal issues from a newspaper article. That is 3-5x the amount of electricity I use (but--I have natural gas--so it is not a fair comparison).

    Some issues affected by what people want:
    And those who want passive-house mansions may be disappointed. Compact shapes are simpler to seal, while sprawling homes are difficult to insulate and heat.

    Most passive houses allow about 500 square feet per person, a comfortable though not expansive living space. Mr. Hasper said people who wanted thousands of square feet per person should look for another design.
    2,000 sq.ft. sounds like a good size house for me (less than 1,500 sq.ft. for four people).

    Also, I would be interested to know why in the smallish region, there is such a variation in adoption rates... Obviously cold/snowy weather is going to help early adopters recover costs quicker than those folks in more temperate climates:
    There are now an estimated 15,000 passive houses around the world, the vast majority built in the past few years in German-speaking countries or Scandinavia.

    The first passive home was built here in 1991 by Wolfgang Feist, a local physicist, but diffusion of the idea was slowed by language. The courses and literature were mostly in German, and even now the components are mass-produced only in this part of the world.

    The industry is thriving in Germany, however — for example, schools in Frankfurt are built with the technique.
    (continued in next post)
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Obviously, there is a cultural component here too...

    In any case--I am a big believer in conservation first--but realize that other "conventional" energy sources (nuke, fossil fuels, hydro, are still going to be the majority of our energy sources) for the next several generations--no matter what politicians believe/fund.

    In our own old (1930's) home--replacing windows and doors, adding wall insulation, cutting way back on power consumed (Energy Star Appliances, getting by without the latest energy consuming gadget, and simply turning things off when not needed, CFL's, etc.)--we have turned the house from an expensive cold home in the winter and an unconfortably hot home (no A/C) in the summer into a much more livable home all year long...

    In fact, our home is now a bit cool during most of the summer here (when it used to be stifling hot much of the summer). We don't have much in the way of south facing windows--so we are somewhat limited by the current design of our old home.

    We manage much of the summer heat by opening windows at night (for cooling) and avoiding cooking/heat during sunny days (plus we have a Time Of Use billing plan for our electricity--so not using power during summer afternoons saves us a bunch of money).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • hillbillyhillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Bill,
    Some interesting stuff about passive solar, which I would hope that most of us here would agree should be the first of many steps towards a more responsible and sustainable lifestyle. I also agree in principle (overall) with the idea that the government "throwing money" at a problem has rarely proved very effective (and never efficient). I guess that I don't see a mandate as throwing any money at all, and in fact I think that it could easily allow industry and innovation. Respectfully, I see it a bit different...
    If you think about it there are "mandates" that you must have auto insurance, there are basic emission standards that must be met, it's mandated that you wear a seatbelt...etc, etc, etc. I think that the key here, as you are often fond of saying is that "the devil is in the details". Clearly, a poorly planed, half thought out, politically motivated series of regulations would inevitably be so riddled with problems that it would not be a positive step forward. I'm not even remotely smart enough to lay claim to having a "perfect plan", but I don't ever let that get in the way of realizing that the possibility IS there...
    Lets say that you take a new home in the central valley of California, with it's ample amounts of solar power. What would be so fundamentally wrong with the building code to require a minimum amount of PV watts (in this instance, for this particular location) per sq foot (maybe 1watt/3sq ft?), as a responsible way of dealing with the power consumption and overall impacts on the community at large? The main argument that I see is just the added cost upfront, but there were no mandates at all on how homes were built and what minimum standards of communal responsibility they must meet I can just imagine how many homes there would be with no septic or sewer connections. Think 3rd world style. To me, all of the mandates that we live under are probably some the biggest reasons that our more modern (civilized?) nations aren't as polluted as some of the more developing nations... it certainly didn't happen overnight, or by the good graces and intentions of individual citizens.
    Anyways, I think that a lot of us have a natural (and somewhat cultural) knee jerk reaction to words like regulations, laws, mandates, etc. And in many ways I wish that we could do away with ALL of the needless and senseless ones out there... but then again, all I need to do is take a look around and I realize that there are huge numbers of people that DO need all kind of rules and regulations. I suspect that one of the main differences of opinion on this matter is what degree of faith one has in the good nature and intelligence of other people. Unfortunately, I don't have that much faith, in fact I would suspect that just letting people have more of their own money to "spend on things that make sense" would likely end up with huge numbers of people (probably a majority even) simply buying a new widescreen HDTV or other toys (don't get me wrong, I love my toys too)...

    p.s. Bill, you mentioned something about the utilities here in California around 2000... wasn't that when they were deregulated, and wasn't that when Enron and others got involved in manipulating the market? I mean this as an honest question, unfortunately at that time when it was all happening I knew SO little about "the grid" (and electricity in general), as well as "the market" that it was really kind of over my head. I'm still sort of trying to piece it all together, very interesting events really... thanks
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Taking a big breath... ;)
    hillbilly wrote: »
    If you think about it there are "mandates" that you must have auto insurance, there are basic emission standards that must be met, it's mandated that you wear a seatbelt...etc, etc, etc.

    Regarding uninsured motorists in California--Even though it "is the law" that everyone has insurance... Roughly 14% of California drivers are uninsured (or under insured--$15,000 minimum insurance is not going to go far with the costs of a repairs/replacements/medical costs).

    And these folks are generally young male drivers which get in many more accidents than average (so live in "poor" zip codes and high accident rates increase their insurance costs--so they can't afford insurance anyway)--so, now we also have to pay for "uninsured motorist" insurance ourselves (another state mandate)... Which drives the cost of insurance up even more--driving more people out of "full insurance"--which raises the costs of our insurance even more.

    I don't have an issue with seat belts... I remember my father bolting them in our vehicles and making us kids wear them many years before the government made them mandatory...

    I also remember when airbags vs automatic seat belts where the law--and having to "belt" anything that sat on the front seat (including groceries and a suitcase). Now, we have both airbags and seat belts (thank fully, no seat belt buzzers and automatic seat belts--how I hated those).

    While seat belts are relatively cheap--airbags are very expensive--and have killed more than a few people--plus airbags don't work past the first few hundred milliseconds after the initial crash (or in roll overs and such). Seat belts are much more economically justified vs air bags.
    ...So let me ask you a question: if you could only have one or the other, would you go for the seat belt or the air bag.

    It turns out the answer is easy, and my views on this one are much less controversial than on car seats. With Jack Porter, a professor at
    Wisconsin, I wrote a paper published four years ago that looks at the effectiveness of seat belts and air bags for adults. We found that wearing a seat belt reduced the chance of death by 60-70 percent across all crashes. We estimated that air bags reduce the death rate by 15 percent in frontal crashes, but don’t help in partial frontal, side, or rear crashes. (The benefits we found for adults in seat belts were higher than most previous research, and the results on air bags were lower than in most earlier research. But there is nobody who knows the data who would prefer an airbag to a seat belt if it was an either/or choice.)

    The bottom line is that to save a life with a seat belt costs $30,000; to save a life with an air bag costs $1.8 mm by our estimates. This makes seat belts an incredibly effective safety innovation. While in comparison, air bags look bad, indeed in the scheme of things $1.8 mm to save a life is pretty good by regulatory standards.
    Regarding laws requiring the wearing of seat belts--I am more of a small government type person... While I personally wear a seat belt every time I drive (and I make other in my car do the same)--I don't want to see anyone die--but I don't think that the "government" (us) should be the nanny state...(you get the idea--don't need to beat a dead horse--politically speaking).

    The "compelling" government drive to have mandatory seat belt laws to allow collection of fines and (hopefully) reduce the number of accidents because the government provides so much "free" medical care (which they have also driven the cost of up based on other laws and regulations)...

    Makes cars much more expensive so that newer cars with better emissions (I do agree with cleaner burning engines--not sure--but probably agree with banning diesels in California as they are much dirtier engines--with currently available technologies). But, these added costs for new cars means that older, more polluting cars remain longer on the road.
    I think that the key here, as you are often fond of saying is that "the devil is in the details". Clearly, a poorly planed, half thought out, politically motivated series of regulations would inevitably be so riddled with problems that it would not be a positive step forward. I'm not even remotely smart enough to lay claim to having a "perfect plan", but I don't ever let that get in the way of realizing that the possibility IS there.
    In a "relatively" free market--the consumer has the choice to direct their monies elsewhere if a company makes a bad decision (unsafe car, "over safe" car, etc.). With government regulations--there is no choice or market correction--unless the errors are "really bad" (California power deregulation" example later)...

    We can argue Voltaire's quote "The perfect is the enemy of the good." But--I do believe that government believes laws can make perfection--something that I don't subscribe too...
    Lets say that you take a new home in the central valley of California, with it's ample amounts of solar power. What would be so fundamentally wrong with the building code to require a minimum amount of PV watts (in this instance, for this particular location) per sq foot (maybe 1watt/3sq ft?), as a responsible way of dealing with the power consumption and overall impacts on the community at large? The main argument that I see is just the added cost upfront, but there were no mandates at all on how homes were built and what minimum standards of communal responsibility they must meet...
    Problem is that, for example in California, the utility has to purchase solar power at "retail" cost and sell it back at "retail"... When only 0.5-1.0% of the total electric grid is "net metered solar"--the bad economics can be lost in the "round off errors"... However, when significant amounts of solar power is installed (such as a large subdivision), then the economics do not make sense, and the utility will (and has) killed such plans.

    For example, say you have 400 homes that each have solar panels that net zero kWhrs over a 1 year period... Their average electric bill will be $5.00 per month... However, they may be drawing many kWatts per home (with AC in summer evenings) and dumping many kWatts during the day when the sun is up. Using Pacific Gas & Electric's rate plans... We see that about 1/2 of the electric bill pays for local and long distance power distributuion--and the the other half (roughly) pays for generation of electric power. In this example--we have just "starved" the entire infrastructure of the ability to collect fees for providing the path for the power.

    This was an interesting "devil in the details" teaching moment for San Diego schools... They don't pay a $/kWhr rate, but like all large and comercial power customers pay a "reservation charge" plus a $/kWhr rate... Which works out to 1/2 of the bill is based on peak power usage, and the other 1/2 based on actual kWhrs billed... And in the case of the school district--even after large amounts of "government" rebates--they found that grid tied solar cost them more than they were originally paying. Yet nobody "saw it coming"... Nobody even looked at their power bills and rate plans?

    In the end, a large development which would be generating $100's of dollars per month per home (say 400 homes x $300 per home for summer A/C bill = $120,000 per month, of which, at least $60,000 should go to infrastructure) is instead paying only $5 per month or $2,000 per month for the development and spending $1,000 on infrastructure.

    No business in their right mind would voluntarily sign up for that plan. However, that is exactly what our government has done.

    [break]
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    [continued]
    ... I can just imagine how many homes there would be with no septic or sewer connections. Think 3rd world style. To me, all of the mandates that we live under are probably some the biggest reasons that our more modern (civilized?) nations aren't as polluted as some of the more developing nations... it certainly didn't happen overnight, or by the good graces and intentions of individual citizens.
    And yet, there are organizations that are against septic and sewer connections and for "dry toilets"... (I certainly believe in using/supporting the best and appropriate technology for a particular location).

    And right now, as an example, the US, in creating so many rules and costs for manufacturing here--have effectively outsourced our manufacturing to other countries with much less strict health, safety, and pollution laws...
    Anyways, I think that a lot of us have a natural (and somewhat cultural) knee jerk reaction to words like regulations, laws, mandates, etc. And in many ways I wish that we could do away with ALL of the needless and senseless ones out there...
    I don't pretend to have all of the answers either--but what is happening is not making things better and in many cases, is just moving the problem from one place to another (whether state to state or country to country.

    It is pretty depressing at times.
    p.s. Bill, you mentioned something about the utilities here in California around 2000... wasn't that when they were deregulated, and wasn't that when Enron and others got involved in manipulating the market? I mean this as an honest question, unfortunately at that time when it was all happening I knew SO little about "the grid" (and electricity in general), as well as "the market" that it was really kind of over my head. I'm still sort of trying to piece it all together, very interesting events really... thanks
    Originally, in California the utilities (like PG&E and SCE) owned the generating plants and the distribution system. What the state legislature did was not deregulation but divestiture--forcing the utilities to sell off-give up their generators and focus on distribution. And we, as consumers, would "buy power" from anyone we wanted (green, hydro, cheap, whatever)...

    This last part never really happened (alternative power suppliers). And the utilities, in an era of falling power prices were happy with the regulations as they were--basically, the utilities had to purchase power on the "spot market", at most, 24 hours in advance.

    All worked well, until, the cost of power started going up... Because the generator owners could not get long term contracts in a falling power price market--they stopped installing new generators and could not do long term contracts for fuel supplies and such... And the utilities themselves could not make any long term plans because they could not "write a contract" more than 24 hours long.

    In the end, power usage continued to grow, and supplies remained the same, or shrank. And suppliers (like Enron--and believe it or not--a government own utility Los Angeles Power and Light was another "Eron" type player--selling their "cheap" fixed cost hydro power for as much as the market would bear) could write demand any price they wanted--or with old power if they did not get the price (up to a government approved limit).

    On the electric utility side, now they had ridiculous price demands from their suppliers (which they could not negotiate for long term supplies with, and could not generate themselves because the state made them give up much of their generation capacity) on once side... And on the other side, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) which set consumer prices based on the historically low prices that the spot market had drifted down to over the years--and they would not let the utilities raise their prices or change their rate plans to reflect the "new costs"...

    So, the utilities, essentially bought power on the short term spot market and sold power on the long term market with no protection--other than that provided by an incompetent state government. To quote this report:
    In 1994 California enacted legislation intended to deregulate the electric power business in the state and establish a competitive market. By January 2001, flaws in the California approach had become evident with the state's utilities driven to the brink of bankruptcy and Californians suffering electricity shortages and blackouts.

    Deregulation never really took place in California. Instead, political forces imposed a contrived market structure that made failure almost predictable. California's disaster was of its own making and largely avoidable.
    In the end--it was an ugly situation... And we are still paying for it today.

    From what little I understand, Texas, for example, did a true deregulation and manage to avoid most of this type of mess. We (California) have $25,000,000,000 (yes $25 billion) in 40 year bonds to pay for a summer of state cause screw-ups that virtually bankrupted our utility companies.

    -Bill

    PS: Just to add--I have undoubtedly made huge simplifications and have based much of my information and subsequent commentary on newspaper sources... The chances that I have made one or more errors in the above assumptions is very possible and I look forward to other posters' take on the issues.

    -BB
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    To further the discussion "god of unintended consequences" and government:

    Oregon DOT to Pursue Mileage Tax (12/28/2008):

    A year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had demonstrated that a new way to pay for roads — via a mileage tax and satellite technology — could work.

    Now Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he’d like the legislature to take the next step.

    As part of a transportation-related bill he has filed for the 2009 legislative session, the governor says he plans to recommend “a path to transition away from the gas tax as the central funding source for transportation.”

    What that means is explained on the governor’s website:

    “As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system.”
    Some government double talk--from the same article:
    According to the policies he has outlined online, Kulongoski proposes to continue the work of the special task force that came up with and tested the idea of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax.
    ...
    The gas tax would stay in force — Kulongoski has proposed that it be raised 2 cents — for vehicles not equipped to pay the mileage tax.
    So, apparently, the government will still keep the old tax structure too because it cannot force everyone to use the new GPS hardware? Will this force people to fuel out of state, drive older cars, or what?

    And, don't worry:
    In more than one interview with the Democrat-Herald and others, James Whitty, the ODOT official in charge of the project, tried to assure the public that tracking people’s travels was not in the plans.
    "Encourage" people to drive less, and use more efficient cars--but create a whole new taxing process/authority/hardware/infrastructure to manage it and insulate the "state" from the consequences of implementing their own policies.

    The current fuel tax basically penalizes heavier/less fuel efficient vehicles and rewards those driving less/smaller vehicles. If the government could justify increased gas taxes--I am sure that they could--and the distribution of payment will still be relatively fair--without using the GPS DME at all.

    Government wants money--so charge (apparently) all vehicles from Mopeds to heavy trucks the same per mile tax--plus electric vehicles too (actually, electric cars make sense, partially because the government has no method to collect road taxes--With bio-diesel and "fryer oil" cars, you can get into big problems if you cannot prove you paid the road taxes on bio-fuels).

    I am sure that this will all be "adjusted" by the lawmakers over the rest of our lifetimes.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,433 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Bill,

    Are you sure you really want to got here???LOL?

    The world is full of unintended consiquences,, but mandates, rules and regulations DO have a place in a civil society. The best rules come from a well though out, well executed strategy to improve the public good, and the more local the better. Now we can all argue from now until NEXT Christmas what "The public good is" but I think we can all agree that there have been some mandates in the past that have worked for the public benefit.

    Take for instances, cars. The cars we drive today bear little resemblance to those of the 1950's. The changes have come mostly from government imposed standards for pollution control and safety have gone a long way to reducing death and injury, and our air is quantifiably better than it was in the 1960's even though there are more cars on the road.

    At almost every turn, advances in these technologies was not pushed by the car companies, but mandated by the states and feds. Almost at every turn the auto companies argued up and down that these items would cause the cost of the the car to skyrocket out of reach of the average consumer. Clearly, this has not been the case as we have bought ~16million cars per year in the past decade(s).

    Bill cites the cost of seat belts vs the cost of air bags per life saved,, a perfectly valid point, except that the price of airbags has gone down to the point of being a rounding error on a per car basis. 1 airbag was expensive, until all cars had them by mandate, now cars with multiple air bags are common. As a result, the cost per life saved has come down accordingly.

    The number of such mandates for cars is indeed staggering, but the net result is that the average car now days is orders of magnitude more reliable than it's 1950's cousin, as well as being orders of magnitude safer. The cost is also up, but relative to the cost of inflation car costs have remained relatively stable. When I was young, a new Chevy cost ~ $1500, gas was $.30, and a house was ~$15k. (Numbers from memory not cited) Today a new Chevy with airbags, clean burning engine, (relatively) fuel efficient, reliable (sort of, but more than before) cost ~$15k, the gas ~$3 gal depending on the day, and a house for $150k would be a fixer upper in most places even with the current slide.

    The world is full of rules that protect people from themselves, most of which are pretty useful. We all complain about stupid building codes, zoning codes , electrical codes etc. but on balance they serve the public good.

    If, as a society, we consider that energy policy that encourages conservation a good thing, then we should accept mandates that make sense to encourage such behavior. I am not a fan a blanket one size that fits all solutions that may make sense in one case by make no sense in others. While our nation needs a rational energy policy (IMHO) and that has to come with leadership from Washington, the details of the solution should come from local stake holders, and not just those that may profit from regulation, or lack thereof.

    The reality is that the world is a place of finite resources, and as such we should be as good stewards of them as we can. I have never advocated that we go back to the stone age, but as many of us on this forum have learned and know that we can live quite will with less. We have learned that with conservation and good design we can have a systems that allow us to live as comfortably as those that use considerably more energy.

    My solution has always been to mandate a certain level of efficiency, ie cafe standards. When it comes to building, a ceiling that mandates the maximum amount of energy a structure can use in total, heating, cooling, lighting etc. It is then up to the designer and builder to make it work. You could trade off increased south glass to reduce the heating load for example. You could add solar hot water and reduce the amount of insulation. Under the best circumstance you could provide tax credits for doing more than the minimum.

    My bottom line is this, mandating anything without allowing flexibility breeds only resentment from those that are force into it. On the other hand, providing a carrot and stick approach to achieving the public good can and does pay benefits to the public good.

    The other thing that has to be considered is a measure of how well thinks are working. We need leadership that is not only willing to implement potentially unpopular policy, but needs to audit it and be willing to admit that it is not working as designed.



    What we have been missing for the last ~30 years is a cogent energy policy that leads us in a direction away from dependence on fossil fuel. If we had woken up early in the 1970's and been smart about how we approached the "energy crisis" we as a society might well be much further along in our quest for real energy independence. It pains me to see the wild swings in energy prices. It makes it very hard for people to plan and invest in RE. I heard today that T.Boone Pickens massive wind plan has been put on ice because the energy market has gone south. If we had had a coherent energy and tax policy for the last years this wouldn't be the problem that it is.

    The next time, and there will be a next time, that energy prices spike, they will go higher than they did this last summer, people will be wailing and crying that we "should do something" IMHO, the time to do something is now! My hope for the new administration is that we begin to move in that direction.

    I guess that is all for now.

    Tony

    PS. Bill, delete if this is too political,,
    T
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,004 admin
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.
    icarus wrote: »
    PS. Bill, delete if this is too political,,
    T
    Tony,

    As far as I understand this forum's rules--this is a perfectly fine course for the discussions to follow.

    Regarding Airbags as rounding error... A summary of costs to replace an airbag deployment (from 2006):

    Even though the damage to a car might not look that bad, some times it's considered a total loss by the insurance company. More and more repairable cars are considered to be a total loss lately, and it is usually for one reason: the cost to repair the air bag system. When the air bags deploy, the cost to fix a car can double!

    The driver side airbag can cost up to $700.00. The passenger side airbag can cost upwards of $900.00. On some cars, when the passenger side airbag deploys, it actually deflects off of the windshield as it comes out. That always breaks the windshield, and the cost of a windshield is usually at least $300.00 bucks. Sometimes when the passenger side airbag comes out, it can even break the dash. When you have to replace a dash, it can add well over $500.00.

    There is also a computer that runs the air bag system, and on some cars it even needs to be replaced. And it costs about $300.00. Some cars have air bag sensors that are under the hood. If you need to replace them, you can add hundreds more for these parts. Some newer cars ever have special seat belts that fire a charge and tighten the seat belts when the air bags go off. Then they have to be replaced, and they are not cheap either.

    Add in all of our labor costs, and an average car might have $3000.00 worth of costs just to repair just the air bag restraint system.

    And when you add that cost onto the estimate, it doesn't take much sheet metal damage to total a car out. So if you get in a minor accident and the air bags deploy, remember... there are some high costs associated with keeping you safe.


    Granted, the cost of parts have always had a high markup--In the "olden days" when I worked a bit in automotive repair--somebody added up all the parts from a dealer for a $5,000 car and got a $25,000 price (not including labor to install--if I remember correctly from the early 1970's).

    From the PDF report I referenced earlier (2001 cost numbers?):
    The annual expenditure on equipping vehicles with seat belts is roughly $500 million, yielding a crude estimate of the cost per life saved of roughly $30,000. In comparison, more than $4 billion dollars are spent annually on air bag installation and maintenance.
    Without knowing the cost of other major components in cars... Our US automakers are asking for $14 billion dollars to avoid bankruptcy... Discontinuing Airbag costs (assuming prices don't change--which is not a valid assumption)--just 2-3 years of savings (assuming inflation adjusted numbers) would equal the government bailout (and this would be outright cash, vs low interest loans).

    Not an insignificant amount of money.

    In the end, my argument is that we are paying for mandates--and when they are applied by governments--the mandates tend to be highly inflexible and costly--and many times, those mandates are deliberately designed to hide where the costs are being buried--or perniciously deigned as to be hidden wealth transfer taxes...

    Anyway, obviously we can point to easy targets (like Al Gore, whose year over year 2005/2006 electrical kWhr increase was how much power I use in my 3 bedroom home with 4 people living here over almost 1 year--before I installed grid tied solar--and took my home to less than zero kWhr usage).

    Ok--how about we "normalize" everyone's electric bill to what we pay in northern California (E1 residential flat rate--pdf download):

    Al Gore (from 2007 article):
    Gores in 2006 averaged a monthly electricity bill of $1,359 for using 18,414 kilowatt-hour
    $1,359 / 18,414 kWhr/month = $0.0738 per kWhr (based on coal/nuke plants)

    The California rate that would apply to this level of "residential" usage:
    Over 300% of Baseline $0.41059
    18,414 kWhrs * $0.41059 per kWhr = $7,561.84 per month

    Or $90,700 dollars a year, just for electricity, for two people and a home office (using Northern California's "progressive" power rates).

    So--if everyone pays the "east/west coast" power rates, and then we will have a large pool of "free money" to "invest" in conservation/rebates/etc.

    When "easy targets" start acting like there is a real emergency--then I will begin to believe that "they", themselves, believe there is a real emergency.

    Take care Tony,
    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BrockBrock Solar Expert Posts: 633 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How about mandating that all new housing construction offer solar.

    Bill the more you write the more I agree with you ;) The things I never knew.

    The only point I would disagree with you is on diesel's being polluting, it depends on who you ask as to what is polluting, diesel is higher in some contaminants and lower in others. But with newer systems made now diesels are much cleaner, from both ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) and the emissions systems on modern diesels.

    It is a catch 22 for me because while I am generally against the government getting involved with the people, they mandated ULSD, similar to unleaded gas and both of those things are good, but it seems governments tend to mess up more things then they "fix".
    3kw solar PV, 8 L16's, xw 5548, Honda eu2000i, iota DLS-54-13, Leaf EV, 4 ton horizontal geothermal, grid tied - Green Bay, WI
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