California law requires rooftop solar on new homes. How the rule is already being tested

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The Sacramento Municipal Utility District and clean energy advocates will square off at the state Capitol Thursday in what is being billed as a fight over the future of solar energy in California.

The Sacramento County electricity provider is asking state regulators to allow some home builders to opt out of the state’s groundbreaking six-week-old rooftop solar panel installation requirement for new houses.

SMUD wants the California Energy Commission instead to approve a SMUD plan to produce power at a few new solar farms around Sacramento County and ship that power to new housing tracts, freeing those builders from having to install panels on house roofs.

The utility says its proposed Neighborhood SolarShares Program doesn’t supplant the rooftop solar mandate, but is a legal alternative under the state regulations for builders of homes or low-rise apartments who find it too expensive or unworkable to mount solar panels on roofs.

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