May 2016 issue: 24 trends in technology, business and markets

In this issue:

Under-the-radar U.S. panel manufacturers finding success

Grounding regulations don’t necessarily translate to solar

What’s up with solar ballast?

Most often, trends in solar are timely innovations or processes used by a growing portion of the industry,usually with the goal of spurring more projects by reducing their cost.


San Francisco just signed up as president of the U.S. Solar Fan Club

Kelly PickerelSan Francisco is known as a progressive city, but when the solar industry arrives there for Intersolar North America this July, it will find itself amid a whole new level of progression: Almost every new building will be outfitted with solar starting next year.

In late April, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation to require either solar panels or solar thermal systems be installed on new residential and commercial building construction that is 10-stories or fewer. California law already required all new buildings within the same height parameters to designate 15% of their roofs as “solar ready”—no shading
or obstructions allowed. San Francisco took it one step further by mandating solar actually be installed on all new buildings.

These new rules make San Francisco the first major U.S. city to require solar panels on new construction (a few smaller California towns have passed similar laws, including Santa Monica which currently requires all new buildings to be equipped with solar). The regulations go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, and will help the city meet its ambitious goal of a greenhouse-gas-free electric system by 2030.

“By increasing our use of solar power, San Francisco is once again leading the nation in the fight against climate change and the reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener in a statement. “Activating underutilized roof space is a smart and efficient way to promote the use of solar energy and improve our environment.”

For those unwilling to install solar, there is an exit clause in the legislation that would allow for the addition of gardens and living roofs instead. The requirement echoes one made last year in France, where new buildings in commercial zones must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels.

The urgency behind this bill comes from the impacts of excessive CO2 emissions on the coastal city, which have already caused “significant erosion, increased impacts to infrastructure during extreme tides and caused the city to expend funds to modify the sewer system.”

We have the feeling that as climate change becomes more undeniable and its effects are felt by other major cities both on the coasts and in-land, we’ll see more legislation like this to mandate the installation of solar. And hopefully these aren’t just feel-good promises. It’s been suggested that the number of 10-story (or shorter) buildings rising up in San Francisco is low, so the amount of new solar going in may be unsubstantial. But at least the city is taking steps to curb climate change and the effects on the environment from an increasing population.

We can’t expect the world to go solar overnight, but we hope San Francisco’s pioneering solar policy will encourage other big cities to adopt planet-friendly regulations.

Our team is eager to get to San Francisco this summer and feel the buzz of a city excited about solar!