California is a solar giant. Well, it’s a giant in general. It’s the most populous state in the United States, home to 1 out of every 8 Americans. Also, the state has a larger economy than all but 8 countries (US included). Being quite progressive, it’s a given that California would be a solar energy leader. Indeed, it’s the #1 state in terms of total solar power capacity. But what solar incentives are available to homeowners or businesses who want to jump into the solar market?
There are quite a few, so I’ll run down these in a rather concise way with links to more information.
California Solar Incentives
California Solar Initiative (CSI) Solar PV Rebates: Nearly used up, the residential solar PV portion of the CSI offers attractive rebates for solar PV projects installed in the state. A sister program is also in place for solar thermal systems and for solar on new homes. Despite the residential solar portion of the CSI being essentially used up, other state incentives combined with the now very low cost of solar power systems has kept residential solar in the state growing fast.
Net metering*: When customers with solar power systems create more electricity than they use, electricity is sent back to the grid and the customers’ utilities then pay retail rates for that electricity. (*The policy details linked above apply for all utilities in the state except LADWP. A different net metering policy is used in the LADWP district.)
Feed-in tariffs: As mandated by a state law, California’s investor-owned utilities and publicly-owned utilities have to develop and offer renewable energy feed-in tariffs for their customers totaling 750 MW of capacity (investor-owned utilities — 493.6 MW; publicly-owned utilities — 256.4 MW). If you’re not familiar with the policy, a feed-in tariff allows an electricity generator (including someone with solar PV panels on their home) a specified rate for the electricity they generate for a specified period of time, often 15 or 20 years. The rate should be high enough that it provides the owners of renewable energy projects with enough profit to stimulate the targeted amount of renewable energy growth. Notably, if a customer participates in a feed-in tariff program in California, they cannot participate in other state solar incentives. Here are details regarding feed-in tariffs in the LADWP district and in Marin County.
Property Tax Exclusion: As simple as the name implies, certain types of solar systems can be excluded from property taxes through this policy.
Rebates are also offer in numerous cities, counties, and special districts:
- Alameda Municipal Power – Solar Photovoltaics Rebate Program
- Anaheim Public Utilities – PV Buydown Program
- Azusa Light & Water – Solar Partnership Program
- Burbank Water and Power – Residential and Commercial Solar Support Program
- Burbank Water and Power – Solar Water Heater Rebate Program
- City of Gridley Utilities – PV Buy Down Program
- City of Healdsburg – PV Incentive Program
- City of Lompoc Utilities – PV Rebate Program
- City of Palo Alto Utilities – PV Partners
- City of Palo Alto Utilities – Smart Energy Rebate Program
- City of Palo Alto Utilities – Solar Water Heating Program
- City of Shasta Lake Electric Utility – PV Rebate Program
- Corona Department of Water & Power – Solar Partnership Rebate Program
- Glendale Water and Power – Solar Solutions Program
- Hercules Municipal Utility – PV Rebate Program
- IID Energy – PV Solutions Rebate Program
- LADWP – Solar Incentive Program
- Lassen Municipal Utility District – PV Rebate Program
- Lodi Electric Utility – PV Rebate Program
- Merced Irrigation District – PV Buydown Program
- Modesto Irrigation District – Photovoltaic Rebate Program
- Moreno Valley Electric Utility – Solar Electric Incentive Program
- Pacific Power – PV Rebate Program
- Pasadena Water and Power – Solar Power Installation Rebate
- PG&E – California Advanced Homes Incentives
- Plumas-Sierra REC – PV Rebate Program
- Redding Electric – Earth Advantage Rebate Program
- Riverside Public Utilities – Residential PV Incentive Program
- Roseville Electric – Residential New Construction Rebate Program
- Roseville Electric – Solar Rebate Program
- SCE – California Advanced Homes Incentives
- SDG&E – California Advanced Homes Incentives
- Silicon Valley Power – Solar Electric Buy Down Program
- SMUD – PV Residential Retrofit Buy-Down
- SMUD – Solar Water Heater Rebate Program
- SoCalGas – California Advanced Homes Incentives
- Truckee Donner PUD – Photovoltaic Buy Down Program
- Turlock Irrigation District – PV Rebate
- Ukiah Utilities – PV Buydown Program
Most of those places also offer similar rebates for energy efficiency projects. You can check out the full list of rebates here.
A number of cities, counties, and special districts also offer a handful of other special incentives:
- City of San Francisco – Solar Energy Incentive Program
- Burbank Water & Power – Green Building Incentive Program
- City of San Diego – Sustainable Building Expedited Permit Program
- City of Santa Monica – Building Permit Fee Waiver for Solar Projects
- City of Santa Monica – Expedited Permitting for Green Buildings
- County of San Bernardino – Green Building Incentive
- San Diego County – Green Building Program
- SMUD – Residential Solar Loan Program (solar water heating only)
- Local PACE Option – Municipal Energy Districts
- California Enterprise Development Authority (Figtree PACE) – Statewide PACE Program
- City of Palm Desert – Energy Independence Program
- Sonoma County – Energy Independence Program
- Western Riverside Council of Governments – Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Financing Program
I know — all of that is a lot to navigate. Luckily, good and experienced solar installers in your area should have a firm grasp on what incentives you could and should apply for. Go through our quick and free system to get connected to an recommended solar installer in your area.
Fun California Solar Facts
Aside from the extremely useful but not always fun to navigate information above, the following are a number of fun California solar facts:
- Over 1,721 solar companies employing over 43,700 people are located across California.
- 1,045 megawatts of solar power capacity were installed in California in 2012, more than any other state.
- Over 3,761 megawatts of solar power capacity are now installed across California, more than any other state.
- There’s enough solar power installed in California to provide electricity for over 800,000 homes.
- “In 2012, $2.6 billion was invested in California to install solar on homes and businesses.This represents a 31% increase over the previous year, and is expected to grow again this year.”
- “Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in California have fallen by 13% in the last year.”
- California has more solar power capacity installed than all but 6 countries.
There’s no doubt that California will continue to be a solar power leader for years to come. The only question is whether or not you will be a part of that.
Image Credit: SEIA
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