Sebastopol was likely to be the first California city to require all new buildings to be outfitted with solar panels. But it was the second.
Last month, the city of Lancaster beat Sebastopol to implementing an ordinance requiring all new construction to don solar panels.
The two communities are as different as any two towns in California could be. Lancaster is a city of 155,000 in the high desert outside of Los Angeles. Its roots are in the aerospace industry with a rich military past. It’s a conservative place with mostly Republican leadership.
But Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris has made a commitment to making the city the “alternative energy capital of the world.”
While Lancaster’s drive to install more solar seems largely motivated by economics, job creation and developing a growing industry, Sebastopol’s justification for requiring solar is a little more traditional.
The little town of 8,000 just outside of well-known wine hub Sonoma is a liberal town oozing with green. The police drive hybrids and the town incorporates green design and principles into nearly every aspect of its operations.
"We were going to be number one," Mayor Michael Kyes told the Press Democrat. "Now we're number two.
While Sebastopol came in second in terms of timing, the town’s ordinance is still much more aggressive than Lancaster’s.
It requires all home and business owners with a new building to install 2 watts of solar per square foot of insulated building area or offset 75 percent of the buildings annual electric load. That’s significant. And if a building is being constructed in area that’s not conducive to solar, the ordinance requires the builder to look for another alternative energy option or pay a fine.
Lancaster’s ordinance only requires a 1-kilowatt solar system, which would hardly offset a third of the annual electric load in a typical tract house.
While the two cities have different approaches, Kyes told the Press Democrat that he’s not sore about being beat by Lancaster. The fact that liberal Sebastopol and conservative Lancaster passed similar regulations means there is truly “broad support” for solar.