A new solar mandate in South Florida has irritated the local builder association, but the upside may please the new homeowners.
Solar in Florida is tricky. Utilities have succesfully kept one of the sunniest U.S. spots for solar from becoming a leader in solar installs. But South Florida's politicians are scared, and rightly so. Even the most benign climate change scenarios put much of this region underwater, as ice melts and sea levels rise. What's a mayor to do?
Builder associations, of course, are notoriously opposed to any sort of mandates, both on the local and national levels. The NAHB, for example, fought against low-flow toilets, and continues to rail against home sprinkler mandates. They've resisted fire safety changes in homes, and opposed wetland protections.
Honestly, I have many builder friends, and don't blame them for bristling when government lays on additional costs of doing business. Part of the problem is the chicken and egg argument about consumer demand versus "big brother" regulation. The builder typically competes in his local market on price. Consumers naturally gravitate toward lower costs per square foot. Is it really my job, he will ask, to ensure that the finished home wastes less water or runs on renewable power, if the client never raises these concerns?
Follow the Money
Of course, this market-centric philosophy is age-old, but as issues such as climate change loom ever larger, it's likely to lose even more power, especially at the local level, where councillors, mayors and code officials have real issues to solve—and builders can either lead, follow, or expect more mandates.
Why not turn the lemons into lemonade?
Let's look at the specific case of the new solar mandate in South Miami. The bottom line for builders is that adding solar to the cost of a new home will make them less competitive in the marketplace, make it harder to sell and build homes. That's not the exact wording they use, but that's the gist of their argument.
The good news is that research conducted earlier this year found that solar PV installation hold their value, adding significantly to the resale value of a home. How much? About as much as the cost of the installation. That's before you figure in the 30 percent federal tax credit. So at current rates, homeowner can expect to get a slight bump in resale value, above and beyond the additional cost of the solar array.
Why not take it a step further? Homeowners who add a battery backup system with their mandated solar will also get the peace of mind of an emergency power backup, in a region with frequent and terrible storm risks.Sea level rise is coming. Solar power is coming. Instead of digging in against the inevitable, and acting as an adversary of change, South Florida builders could become leaders in promoting and educating consumers about the advantages of owning your own power plant.-MP