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A recent bill put forward in Rhode Island would require solar panels on all newly constructed buildings and parking lots larger than 16,000 square feet – should this idea be rolled out across the US?

Solar on new parking lots and buildings

Jennifer Boylan’s (D-Barrington and Riverside) bill is called the Solar Neighborhoods Act (RI H5851), and it proposes that the Rhode Island Building Code Commission establish new code requirements for the following:

  • Single-family dwellings: New single-family dwellings would be required to have solar systems that produce 80% of estimated average annual electricity use, or 40% if they include battery storage energy efficiency and demand storage measures.
  • Multi-family dwellings and large commercial buildings: Multi-family dwellings and large commercial buildings up to 10 stories tall would have to have solar that meets a minimum generating capacity established by the commission that may be based on such factors as roof size, building type, and occupancy.
  • Outdoor uncovered parking lots larger than 16,000 square feet: These are roughly the equivalent of around 98 parking spaces. New parking lot construction would have to feature raised solar-panel canopies covering at least 50% of the surface of the parking lot, 5% of the parking spaces would have to feature EV charging stations, and an additional 20% of parking stations would have infrastructure that makes EV charging station upgrades possible in the future.

Boylan, the representative who sponsored the bill, said [via WJAR]:

The time is now, we need to get moving.

Every time we build a new building, whether it’s a school or house or a commercial building, and we don’t put solar panels on it, it’s a lost opportunity.

Consumers will pay less for energy, they’ll be generating it themselves and at the same time the solar panels, putting them on the roof involves putting good jobs in play with the construction and we’ll be reducing our carbon footprint every time we do it. So, it’s like win, win, win.

The Solar Neighborhoods Act was recommended by the House Committee on Corporations to be held for further study, and it seems as though Boylan anticipated that or something similar when she further commented:

Maybe right now we’re not quite there to mandating, but we need to start talking this way.

We need to start thinking this way. And at some point in time, we will get to the point where every new building does have this. So, let’s jumpstart the conversation and think about how we can make that happen sooner.

Electrek’s Take

This is an idea that can and should become law in some shape or form everywhere. If a building or parking lot is constructed from scratch, then solar should be part of the fabric – a given – like the way kitchen cabinets are mandatory in a house. We once bought a new-build house in the UK that came with solar panels, and we were delighted. They made a dent in our electric bill.

Parking lots are ripe for solar canopies. They protect cars from the elements, and they create energy to boot. And I can’t wait for the day that nearly every parking lot has at least a couple of EV chargers.

The Solar Neighborhoods Act should be adopted – not only in Rhode Island but everywhere in the US. California is the only state that has a solar mandate on new construction, and Massachusetts has pending solar mandate legislation. Good for Jennifer Boylan for putting this idea on the table in her state legislature.

Photo: “Solar Panels Covering Parking Lot – Arizona State University, Tempe” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Read more: Qcells will make 2.5M solar panels to fill largest US community solar order ever


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