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St. Louis Passes Solar Roof Mandate

Monday, January 20, 2020

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Last month, St. Louis became the latest city to pass green roof legislation—in this case, roofs on new construction must be “solar ready.”

Board Bill 146, which was signed into legislation in December by Mayor Lyda Krewson and was unanimously approved by the city’s Board of Aldermen, applies to commercial, residential and multifamily construction. Lawmakers cited energy savings for the push.

“Up until now, it has been only the people who can afford the up-front installation costs of solar power who benefit from the lower electric rates,” said Alderwoman Heather Navarro, who introduced the bill.

“This bill levels the playing field and better positions city residents to take advantage of solar power.”

f11photo / Getty Images

Last month, St. Louis became the latest city to pass green roof legislation—in this case, roofs on new construction must be “solar ready.”

The requirement is also in compliance with the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code and goes toward the Michael Bloomberg initiative (which the city is a member of) to fight climate change.

"As Mayor, I want people to know that this administration is taking the climate crisis seriously and meeting its challenges head-on, especially at the local level," Krewson said in a statement. "That includes signing this historic solar readiness bill, which reflects that commitment."

Other Legislation

The St. Louis regulation comes after multiple cities have enacted similar requirements, most notably seen in New York City with its Climate Mobilization Act.

In April of last year, New York City council approved a package of bills and resolutions—known as the Climate Mobilization Act—intended for radical energy efficient improvements. The act requires that all new residential and commercial buildings in the city have green roofs made up of either plants, solar panels or small wind turbines—or a combination of all three.

In October, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to conduct deep energy retrofits throughout the city.

Also last year, Nebraska updated the state’s energy codes for residential and commercial buildings for the first significant time in a decade, taking cues from both Boston and Ontario, which updated their regulations to get new construction as close to net zero as possible.

In 2018, Denver passed its Green Roof Initiative, which not only requires new, large buildings to be constructed with green roofs, but also requires buildings of a certain size to install a green roof when the current one is up for replacement.

Also at the end of 2018, California’s Building Standards Commission gave the final approval for codes that mandate the requirement for solar panels on new homes making it the first state to have such a rule. That is slated to take effect this year.


Tagged categories: Environmental Controls; Good Technical Practice; Government; Green roofs; Laws and litigation; NA; North America; Regulations; Solar; Solar energy

Comment from Bryce Washburn, (1/20/2020, 8:31 PM)

Nice, this the first article I read where it's own city council does something other than tax the population.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/21/2020, 9:27 AM)

Prewiring (and panel sizing) for solar and electric vehicle charging is far, far cheaper when it's done during construction. When our friends had a house built, they had an extra 240V/50A circuit for the garage put in, it cost very little.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (1/22/2020, 12:13 PM)

Pre-wiring for solar and electric cars, like roughing in for radon mitigation, is far, far cheaper when done during construction. My concern and hope is that St. Louis is also planning for upgrading the electrical grid to handle the additional load as more electric vehicles come on-line. Home solar systems will help a little overall, but the new load that will be present if even just 15% of households have an electric car charger could cripple many existing power distribution systems.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/23/2020, 8:55 AM)

Michael, the power demand of EVs is a solved problem with time-of-use pricing. The power provider just needs to offer a lower rate when there is less grid congestion and power is readily available. This already happens with many power providers in Texas, some even offer "free nights and weekends" - virtually all EVs let you set a default "start charging" time. Just set it for 10PM or whenever your power prices are low. I know several EV owners who love getting super cheap (or free) power to charge up at night - and in Texas, a lot of that will be wind power (20% of all electricity produced in 2019, and the wind usually blows well at night in West Texas). Some power providers are suggesting it would be better for the EV timers to have a "finish charging by" time instead of a start time to stagger start times. Super simple software update.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (1/24/2020, 10:50 AM)

Tom, considering when the weather gets really cold here, furnaces are going nearly 24/7 and people are running electric space heaters, our grid is pushed to almost brown-out electrical loads, my comment still stands. Moving to EVs is great, but your grid has to be able to support the additional demand that cannot be made up by residential solar systems. It's great to mandate the pre-wiring during construction when it is inexpensive, but municipalities and state/provincial governments need to be looking at the future loads on their grids as we change the way we power our "stuff."

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (1/26/2020, 12:52 PM)

Michael, do people where you live use insulation in their homes? I was recently at a presentation in New York City where an individual claimed that upon super-insulating an existing townhouse, his family left the heat off to see what would happen in the winter. Temperatures got down to 67 deg F. They barely need a heating system with the retrofit.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/27/2020, 7:46 AM)

Michael - that's one reason my power provider has different time-of-use schedules for winter and summer. In the winter, the highest prices are actually 5-8AM to discourage use during that timeframe. I agree there need to be some grid upgrades, and some areas need them more than others. Andrew has a good point with improving insulation, it can dramatically reduce heating/cooling demand and in many cases can pay off the installation cost in 2-3 years.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (1/27/2020, 11:37 AM)

Andrew, yes...significant insulation. Without mandating construction methods such as insulated concrete form, double thick exterior walls or double depth attic insulation, there are limits to how much you can reduce energy use for heating in a location with conditions similar to Alaska. We retrofit our home when we purchased it and have one of the lowest heat leak signatures on our block (our provider is an arm-length municipal service who routinely do surveillance to find poor performing homes and assist with energy use reduction measures)...but when the daytime high can peak at -40 (C or F) certain times of the year, it can really tax a heating system. We only need supplemental heat (i.e. space heaters) in one room (most northerly and exposed) when it is that cold, but not everyone is that fortunate. A co-worker has a Volt and, when it is that cold, battery performance is "very poor" and requires frequent charging. Our current grid, even with time-of-use schedules, would have a very difficult time with supplemental heating and car charging demands over our long winter if there were an immediate and significant adoption of EVs. That is what prompted my comment...pre-wiring or roughing-in systems that may be needed is a great thing to do during construction where the cost is minimal; however, my caveat is that you need to make sure that, as these systems become more mainstream and have higher utilization rates, your local supply grid can handle the additional load.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/28/2020, 7:56 AM)

Michael, no offense intended - but locations with (even occasional) daytime high temperatures of -40 are a pretty small niche and not really applicable to St. Louis. I suspect less than 0.1% of the North American population would be affected, and I suspect those municipalities would be aware of these local issues and wouldn't issue such a mandate. St. Louis (like most of the Central US) has access to massive amounts of wind power which typically produces quite well at night and in the winter, which matches the use case well.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (1/28/2020, 12:00 PM)

Fair enough, Tom....but in much of western Canada (northern Ontario through to the British Columbia interior), it is something we do fight with annually. Solar and wind grid augmentation and hydroelectric are great where available and effective, but not everywhere has access to them. I'm certainly glad to see St. Louis going this way, but much of this region would need to upgrade to take the same steps. On the flip side, we sure make some durable products here that can stand up to nasty weather cycles ;)

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/30/2020, 7:47 AM)

Michael - I'm sure you do have some serious weather to deal with. Your comments about solar, wind and hydro had me go look at Canadian wind resources. It appears both BC and Ontario have nice wind resources, and wind can often complement the existing hydro nicely.

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