With one of the largest economies in the world, and the biggest population in the entire US, the state of California leads in a lot of areas, including solar power, but there’s still plenty of room for renewable energy growth in the Golden State.
The high insolation (or incoming solar radiation) in most of California, a wide range of solar incentives, and an ambitious goal for deploying 12,000 MW of renewable distributed generation in the state by 2020, choosing to install solar panels on California residences is making more and more sense every day.
California currently leads the US in solar energy projects, with over 200,000 installed (5,660 MW), and an average cost per watt of $5.82 for systems smaller than 10 kW. The average installed residential and commercial solar panel system prices in the state are said to have fallen by 8% over the last year, and there are a huge number of incentives to help bring the cost of installed solar panels in California down to a level that’s affordable for many more CA residents.
“Since the Million Solar Roofs initiative began [in 2006], the total installed cost of residential solar power systems in California has fallen 25%, and the cost of commercial-scale systems has fallen more than 40%. If progress continues at the same rate, residential solar energy should reach break-even costs statewide in the next five years, even without upfront rebates.”
Rooftop solar in California is booming, and in 2013 alone, the Golden State more than doubled its rooftop solar installations, going from 1,000 MW to over 2,000 MW, and shows no sign of slowing down. Although the issue of net metering in California (where customers can be compensated for any excess energy produced by the solar panels on their homes) is a hot one, one of the priorities of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) is to keep those solar incentives rolling:
“We are proud of the fact that California is one of the strongest and fastest growing solar markets in the world. Yet, the health and strength of our market, which has grown to surpass a nuclear power plant in size, depends entirely on continued good public policy decisions.” – Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of CALSEIA
According to Our Solar Rights, net metering for solar in California has had a big impact on the adoption of solar, by enabling 160,000 homes, schools and businesses to choose solar for their electricity source, and some of the highest growth is happening in mid and low-income communities. Net metering is said to be responsible for $92 million in annual grid benefits and generating almost 44,000 solar jobs in the state of California.
Update: According to Vote Solar, a new ruling from the California Public Utilities Commission will keep the state’s net metering program going strong:
“Today, the CPUC issued a strong final decision that allows customers who net meter under the current program to keep the current rules for 20 years from the year they go solar. This rule applies to the state’s 200,000 existing IOU solar customers plus any other IOU customers who go solar before July 2017 or before their utility hits the current 5% program cap.”
It’s not just California’s policies and politics that are driving more rooftop solar in the state, as solar advocates there say that the high costs of utilities, and the ability to save money by installing a solar power system, is helping to boost California solar.
Purchasing a solar panel system outright isn’t the only option (although it could be a viable option for some, which would avoid the interest and loan costs), as a large number of new solar homeowners in California (75%) are leasing solar, in part because of the appeal of having a $0 downpayment for solar installation, and being able to offset their electrical costs right off the bat, not years down the road. A solar leasing company may also be able to take advantage of additional solar incentives that the average homeowner wouldn’t (or couldn’t), which brings solar costs down further.
For those Californians who don’t want to go the route of solar leasing, but instead want to work directly with a solar contractor to install a solar PV array on their roof, and one which they will own outright, can take heart from the dropping price of solar panels, which is being driven down every year (and which is no longer nearly as expensive as many people think). And the long-term savings (over 20 years) for solar in California are some of the highest anywhere, with the average being about $34,260, which is not exactly pocket change, but a significant and tangible benefit of installing solar panels in California.
If you’d like to explore how solar panels can benefit your California residence (and your wallet), you can request a solar quote on our site to get an estimate of your savings, as well as request a follow-up solar site evaluation for a more exact estimate of the costs to install a home solar system.
March 7, 2014
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