California solar energy systems top 1 gigawatt

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.

California officials reported Thursday that state residents have installed 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, state officials say the program should reach its goal of funding enough installations to generate 1,940 megawatts by the end of 2016.

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