By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
California’s ambitious solar incentive program is basking in early success, despite the poor economy, according to a hopeful mid-course report.
Three years into a 10-year roll out, the California Solar Initiative (CSI), a component of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Million Solar Roofs" plan, is already 42 percent of the way toward its state goals, according to a July 9 report to the legislature. That's counting projects that are installed, holding reservations and in progress, according to collected data.
All told, California has more than 600 Megawatts of installed solar power connected to the grid at nearly 65,000 customer sites.
Of that total, the vast majority (598 MW) has been installed in the state's investor-owned utility territories, and half of that or 342 MW, was installed under the CSI program. The rest was installed via other programs, such as a separate program assisting solar installations for new construction.
The CSI program for existing buildings is the largest of its kind in the country, with a $2.2 billion budget and a goal of reaching 1,940 MW of solar capacity by the end of 2016.
Demand for on-site solar power is soaring in California, with the CSI program receiving a record number of requests (for nearly 300 MW of power) since January 2010. That exceeds any previous six-month span, according to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
What's more, California is not just an eager user of solar power. Adding solar customers also helps build the U.S. solar industry, which is largely based in California. CPUC estimates that for every dollar spent on installation incentives by the state, private sources have invested another $2.62 in solar technology in California.
"This report shows the California Solar Initiative is working by making solar power more accessible and spurring private investment in solar projects around our state," said Gov. Schwarzenegger in a statement.
"I am glad Californians are taking advantage of this opportunity to save money on their electricity bills, while helping us increase the amount of clean energy in California. Successes like this program continue to show the rest of the world that you can protect the environment and pump up the economy at the same time, and I am proud to say it is happening right here in California."
Consumers stand to benefit from the installation incentives, which cover about 10 percent of the installation costs (find out more), and also from falling solar prices.
CPUC data shows that solar power costs are declining (though the utilities commission does not assess whether this is from the recession or industry maturation). Figures adjusted for inflation show that prices have fallen from about $10.04 per watt in January 2007 to $8.49 per watt currently for systems under 10kW.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) oversees the California Solar Initiative (CSI), which provides incentives for solar systems to customers of any of the state's three investor-owned utilities. About 80 percent of Californians are served by those utilities, which are: Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E).
The incentives help residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural property owners with the initial costs of putting up solar arrays.
Gov. Schwarzenegger's "Million Solar Roofs" plan, which includes CSI and other programs, was enacted into law in 2006 and became active in 2007.
See these resources for more about solar incentives in California:
Center for Sustainable Energy-California, CSI program.
California Center for Sustainable Energy — PACE funding for solar arrays
California Center for Sustainable Energy – Incentives for Self Generation
The full report on the California Solar Initiative.
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