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Solar Ready Area & Solar Requirements:

solar ready area

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For sunny California, solar energy is an increasing focus within efficiency code regulations. The title “Golden State” is appropriate for more than one reason! Conveniently, solar panels create energy for a building on site. Solar panels benefit the owner while making use of sunlit space on rooftops. CA state legislature has promoted switching to renewable energy in the form of laws and incentives. According to regulations by the California Energy Commission, some structures are required to have a Solar Ready Area (SRA). Others must have panels installed. Evidently, a Solar Ready Area is exactly what it sounds like. An SRA is a designated area that can accommodate the future installation of solar panels. In other words, these buildings have sufficient space for panels plus optimized roofing designs. When the infrastructure is already there, photovoltaic (PV) implementation is more cost-effective and attainable.


However, the CEC updates these laws every three years. So, the exact regulations that apply depend on when the building permit was pulled. Why does BarrierEnergy have so much insight on this topic? Our certified technicians must stay up to date on energy code changes. It’s part of building codes that we inspect and report on daily. Likewise, we’re very proud our state has decided to adopt this pioneering approach. If you need a HERS Rater to sign off on your solar Title 24 paperwork, reach out to our team today. Our company, located in Santa Barbara, services the mid-southern coast of California.

Advantages of Solar:

On-site power through solar has many advantages such as flexibility, reliability, and efficiency. For one, solar can produce a whole day’s worth of energy needs from peak sunlight hours alone. Of course, that depends on the location, size of the building, energy usage, and system effectiveness. Factors such as seasons and peak times can make solar more inconsistent if the whole system is designed poorly. “The amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s consumption for a full year” as reported by the U.S. Solar Energy Technologies Office. Pairing solar with high-capacity battery storage and a balanced system is the most effective. Other advancements, such as load tiering, distinguish between high-priority energy needs (like refrigeration) versus low-priority needs. Flexible systems protect the owner.

Along those lines, solar provides energy that consumers can depend on. Natural disasters occur, power goes out, and terrorist threats become real. In times of disaster, owners can have the peace of mind that they still operate in “island mode”. That’s why more hospitals, schools, and public services are leaning towards renewable energy and microgrid designs. Not to mention, excess energy can even be transferred within a neighborhood or community. What an excellent example of how solar can benefit networks of energy consumers.

Lastly, efficiency is an important element of solar that can reduce energy bills. As electric rates continue to rise, a solar consumer can rely on a consistently low rate. The average Californian can save tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the panels. Even better, investors can profit from the Net Energy Metering Tariff. Utilities will pay bill credits to collect surplus energy produced through solar. Using less energy than the panels produce will maximize the Return on Investment.


Title 24 Requirements for Solar Ready Area & Solar Panels:

2016-2019 Solar Ready Area

Section 110.10 of the 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards writes out solar-ready requirements. New or altered buildings must have at least 250 square feet of unobstructed space. For single-family homes, the zone is located on the roof or overhang. Any other types of structures may satisfy this standard with an accessory unit located within 250 feet. Multi-family and commercial buildings must assign at least 15% of the roof to solar. Naturally, the solar zone cannot impede skylights or smoke ventilation. California took this step to prepare its residents for the next stage, which will require that solar panels be installed in all new construction.

2019-2022 Solar Ready Area and Photovoltaic

In effect since January 1st, 2020, newly constructed buildings under three stories must have PV systems installed. Sizing stipulations are based on the buildings’ need for electricity and climate. Notably, the system needs the capacity to meet the buildings’ annual usage of electricity. California plans to incentivize solar battery storage, additionally.
2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards outline the rules for Solar Ready Areas / Solar Zones. These guidelines only apply to buildings with no solar systems, in accordance with legal exceptions. Meaning, buildings without PV systems must still be Solar Ready. CF1R-SRA-O1-E will be requested upon submittal for a building permit, regardless.

2022-20225 More in Photovoltaics

The newest set of codes went into effect on January 1st, 2022. Now solar requirements also apply to commercial and high-rise multi-family buildings. If your permit was pulled after January 1st, 2022, you must install sufficient solar panels to accommodate sixty percent of a new building’s total energy usage. Single-family homes must have hookups for battery energy storage. Visit Energy Code Ace’s reference tool to get more details on requirements, exemptions, and formulas.


Renewable energy tax credits are available for certified ENERGY STAR fuel cells, small wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, and more, thanks to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The Investment Tax Credit offers 10%-30% on renewable energy installment costs. Eligible builders and owners can apply for either residential or commercial properties. 

New as of 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act is introducing rebates and tax credits that are available through 2032. These incentives can cover as much as 30% of the cost of qualifying energy-efficient equipment. Please note, residential rebates only apply to principal homes, not rentals. Check out ENERGY STAR for a comprehensive list of requirements. Proof of purchase is mandatory.


There are many exceptions to the solar mandates, outlined throughout the code. In general, options are provided to the owner or builder in the form of alternative upgrades. The building may be exempt if it already has a solar hot water heater or other efficient appliances/features, for example. Another exception to the solar zone and/or installation could be physical obstructions causing excess shade. A “solar access” equation is used to determine the feasibility of solar for a specific structure. 

In some cases, properties with small enough roofs may be exempt from installing a PV system. High-rise structures more than three stories high don’t require solar. Builders can also reduce the sizing obligation of solar by pairing the system with battery storage. Altogether, a solar system could be shrunk by as much as 40% in conjunction with other efficiency upgrades.

Groups of residents can opt for community systems in place of individual units. First, the CEC and the local utility must grant approval. 


solar ready area

Solar Hero

Solar Ready Area Prepares Us for the Future:

As uncertainty takes over, people are looking to create their own. Looking forward, we see a future of connected communities that can rely on energy security. Solar tackles global warming, inefficiency, and disaster, simultaneously. Hence, PV systems are one of the avenues California is taking toward Zero-Net EnergyThis progression shows that people have a great interest in diversifying energy production, distribution, and consumption. The downside seems to be that industry professionals can have a hard time keeping up to date with codes. Owners/builders must consistently adjust financially and mentally to these changes. Construction workers and potential owners must keep an eye on these developments the most. BarrierEnergy is here to assist in this process and answer questions in our article “Loans for Energy Efficiency Improvements.” We appreciate your audience and commentary. Please subscribe to our blog, if you haven’t already!
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