California's rebate program for businesses and homeowners, who install solar panels, has now funded enough systems to generate 1 gigawatt of electricity - a level few countries and no other states have ever reached.
Woodland Hills, CA February 08, 2013
The Solar Center of Woodland Hills, California reported Thursday that California residents have now installed over 1,066 megawatts of solar systems using rebates from the $2.4 billion California Solar Initiative, launched in 2007 as a way to jump-start the industry.
For perspective, 1 gigawatt is roughly the output of two conventional power plants or one nuclear reactor. A gigawatt equals 1,000 megawatts. Both are snapshot figures, representing the amount of electricity generated at a given instant.
The rebates decline over time and are now 92 percent lower than they were when the program began. But the number of applications received each year continues to rise as solar power's popularity spreads.
As a result, the Solar Center says that the program should reach its goal of funding enough installations to generate 1,940 megawatts by the end of 2016. "It's one of the few examples of a program where, if anything, we're hitting the goals sooner than anticipated," said Edward Randolph, director of the energy division at the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees the program. "The costs are going down as we hoped, and the market is heading closer to self-sufficiency."
The program is part of California's Million Solar Roofs Initiative, a $3.3 billion package of financial incentives offered by California to build a thriving solar industry here. The overall initiative, created by the Legislature in 2006, seeks to install enough solar systems across the state to generate 3 gigawatts, reaching that milestone by the end of 2016. Solar power's spread across the state has been aided by plunging prices, driven lower by a worldwide glut of solar panels. When the California Solar Initiative started offering rebates in early 2007, residential solar installations in the state cost $9.76 per watt on average, according to the program's data. Now they cost $6.19, a drop of 37 percent.
The rising popularity of solar lease programs - which allow homeowners to install solar systems without owning the equipment - has also helped fuel the solar industry's growth. The California Solar Initiative is reviewing applications for projects capable of generating another 332 megawatts.
The initiative accounts for roughly half of the solar power capacity installed in California to date.
When other facilities are included - such as photovoltaic power plants that sell their electricity to utilities - the state can now generate more than 2 gigawatts from the sun, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
For more information on how to go solar in California, The Solar Center can be reached at (877) 207-6527