Lancaster, California, Aims for Net-Zero Energy

Are net-zero energy cities the future of sustainability?


What would it mean if every newly constructed California home was energy independent? In 2014, the City of Lancaster, California, was the first city to require solar panels on new homes. In doing so, it pioneered a policy that has since been adopted by several other California cities, including San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Sebastopol. And now, the town has set its sights on becoming the country’s first net-zero energy city, producing as much energy as it consumes.

Lancaster’s geographical location in the western Mojave Desert offers it an abundance of sunshine. Nearly every public building from its City Hall to the baseball stadium is powered by the sun. Its 160,000-member community is committed to energy sustainability.

Building upon its pioneering 2014 policy, last week the Lancaster City Council took steps forward by adopting a new ordinance requiring new homes to have solar panels generating two watts of energy for every square foot. Not every building will be able to support that much solar, the Council acknowledged. Therefore builders also have the option of paying $1.40 per square feet of constructed home or a combination of solar panels and fee.

The City is currently conducting a feasibility study and will have to gain approval from the California Energy Commission before implementation, but its goal is to put the policy into effect by the end of 2017. A logical next step is concurrent energy storage integration.

“The Zero Net Energy Home Ordinance expands upon Lancaster’s residential solar ordinance so that new homes built in Lancaster now will not only be environmentally friendly, but have a zero-net impact on our environment, while reducing energy costs for the homeowners,” said Republican Mayor R. Rex Parris in a statement. “This is a great stride in Lancaster’s journey to become a zero-net city.”

Other experts point out that policies such as this can have a streamlining effect on the solar adoption process by shifting the initial investment to home developers. This means that equipment costs can be folded into the mortgage and buyers can move in to a home that generates its own electricity.

However, members of the energy industry concur across the board that a net zero energy policy would need refinement prior to significant expansion. Is a net-zero energy plan for new construction something that you think the policy makers should consider for statewide implementation? DE_bug_web

  • Dennis Fleming.

    Does the ordinance require installation of a battery system or will the local electric utility be required to provide voltage stabilization for the homes. The ordinance should require all new homes be independent of the power grid.

  • Edo McGowan.

    As more users shift to low-cost solar, a lack of sufficient profit within the underlying grid-utility may see the driving of an increased deferred maintenance mentality within the underlying utility. This may become problematic. Case in point the grid leg coming into Santa Barbara. Because there is as yet no easily available and robust storage systems for urban solar, if the grid which underlies the community goes down, solar systems will cease to do the job most feel they were intended to accomplish.

    The increase maintenance cost per profit ratios from masses moving into solar and the consequent need to maintain profits within the utility will see deferred maintenance.

    Dr Edo McGowan

  • Mike v.

    Hoooorayyyy! Another nail in the costly coffin of development and affordable homebuilding in California. Well done! following in the footsteps of $15 minimum wage, out of control storm water enforcement, ZNE mandated by 2020, and the forthcoming AB199 legislation mandating ALL new construction to be paid prevailing wage, get ready to say goodbye to any housing being built in California, let alone anything even remotely resembling affordable. When will the electeds at any level figure it out? We cannot continue to increase costs to build homes, and just hope appreciation bails everything out. It won’t, and isn’t. The veiled end game of stopping development through any means is nigh. Congratulations!


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