Rooftop Solar Takes Off In California As Costs Decline

California is known for alternative energy enthusiasm and dedication to energy usage reductions. As part of that, back in 2007, the state launched a $3.3 billion effort to install 3,000 MW of new solar capacity over the next decade.

Solar panel installation
Rooftop Solar Installation
Image Credit: Wayne National Forest

California is one of the US states in which the use of solar energy is encouraged most, and this encouragement (because of the California Solar Initiative) has been so successful that a record-breaking 391 MW of solar panels were installed in California in 2012, 26% more than 2011.

391 MW translates into 117 MW for solar when cloudy weather and night are factored in (capacity factor: 30%). This can power approximately 39,000 homes.

“The program has made solar affordable for ordinary Californians,” said Susannah Churchill of the San Francisco-based solar advocacy group Vote Solar. “Solar is a classic California success story.”

Through the end of the first quarter of 2013, 1,692 MW were installed at roughly 168,000 sites. The California Solar Initiative’s road map calls for 1,750 MW of new solar power plants to be installed on residential and commercial rooftops in that state by 2016.

The greatest news, however, is this: Since 2007, the cost to install solar systems decreased from $8.77 per watt to 5.98 per watt. That is $17,940 for a 3 kW system, which would have cost $26,310 in 2007. That is a whopping $8,370 difference!

The cost of an almost-new car!

Now to burst your bubble: The California Solar Initiative rebates provided are not for off-grid solar systems. I believe that they should cover those systems as well, if not even more than grid-tied systems because off-grid systems have the issues of energy storage and variability taken care of already.

For every house that goes off the grid, that is one less solar system to back up, reducing the need for grid-energy storage and natural gas backup.

Source: MercuryNews.com


About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.
  • Daniel Ferra

    Why cant a Voting, Tax paying Homeowner, be allowed to participate in the Ca. State mandate of 33% Renewable Energy
    by 2020, with out third party leasing ? or destroying our desert eco-systems ?

    from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, residential solar installations rose 53 percent year-over-year, and have vastly grown for 12 of the past 13 quarters. In California alone, third-party solar installations account for two-thirds of the residential PV market, which exceeded non-residential for the first time.

    Here is what is going on, and how we can change it with a Residential Feed in Tariff.

    “Examples of how they have been “slowing the process” are:

    (1) Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which create de facto caps on the deployment of renewable energies. (The Germans don’t have any RPSs. Their FIT program is open ended, the more capacity, the merrier!)

    (2) Net-metering caps. Most states only allow a small percentage of one to two percent of peak load to be net-metered. There are exceptions however. Colorado, for example, has no aggregate capacity limit. However, most states do. Net-metering, therefore, will certainly “hold back the clean energy tide.”

    (3) The third party leasing rent-to-own outfits like Sungevity, but more importantly, Solarcity, which just went public with an IPO, fight tooth and nail to protect scarce capacity carveouts (from the state RPSs) so as to bolster their chosen business models as the expense of all others. The same goes for the utility-scale folks. The in-fighting, due in part to the small de facto caps of the RPSs, have significantly slowed the deployment of renewables in the U.S.

    (4) Most importantly is how we connect distributed renewable energies to the grid in the U.S., the most salient difference between the American net-metering program and the German feed-in tariff is that net-metering is *retail* energy whereas the FIT is *wholesale* energy. Thus, net-metering does little more than offset onsite loads and in the process it shifts the rate burdens of lost customers onto other ratepayers. Those rate burdens also include all of the utility’s overhead as well since compensation is at the retail rate. A FIT, on the other hand, as wholesale energy feeds the energy directly into the electric grid, and because it is must take wholesale energy it must be used first, and in many cases it will off set more expensive energies found on the grid, such as peaker plant power,spinning reserves and so forth saving rate payers money.” Bob Tregilus

    Third party leasing is fine on the surface and is making a contribution in reducing our fossil fuel consumption, but third party leasers, the Big Boy solar companies that build in the Fragile Desert Eco-Systems, and the Utilities all fight over Renewable Portfolio Standards Pie allowance.

    Established in 2002 under Senate Bill 1078, accelerated in 2006 under Senate Bill 107 and expanded in 2011 under Senate Bill 2, California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) is one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the country. The RPS program requires investor-owned utilities, electric service providers, and community choice aggregators to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources to 33% of total procurement by 2020.

    All Three leagues have a piece of the pie, there is 4 to 6 teams in each league that want a piece of that carve out money pie, causing huge infighting, and as of right now the homeowner is left out of the ballgame, with no chance of eating the all american pie, why ? because we are not represented at the Renewable Portfolio Standard dining hall, with a chair at the pie eating table.

    “The benefits of owning a renewable energy system far outweigh the benefits of a lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA). Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, homeowners are eligible for a federal personal income tax credit up to 30% of the purchase cost of their renewable energy system, without a maximum limit.** Homeowners can utilize the incentive money in any way they choose. But homeowners that choose to lease their systems turn over their rebates and incentives to the third party lease or PPA companies associated with the solar systems installed on their homes.”

    “The owner of a renewable energy system is also sheltered from rising electricity costs, which have historically increased on average of 3-5% each year. This presents homeowners with opportunities to save money each month on energy and also reduces their reliance on third-party utility companies. By purchasing a renewable energy system with cash or through a loan, a homeowner can completely pay off his or her system and then independently produce clean energy. By choosing a lease or a PPA option homeowners are essentially substituting their utility companies with third-party leasing companies. Additionally, homeowners will likely be required to purchase their systems, renew their leases, or have the systems removed from their roof and revert to paying utility rates once their leases have ended.” Charlie Angione

    “The motivation and the goals of Germany’s unprecedented solar policy are neither a secret nor hard to research (EEG 2004, Article 1). For decades, the main problem of solar had been identified as it being too expensive to deploy. But, at the same time, only deployment and mass production would lead to significant cost reductions. To overcome this barrier, the German parliament adapted the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) in 2004 to incentivize the installation of solar PV systems, thus creating the first uncapped mass market for solar power. It was the goal to reduce the technology’s cost through deployment, innovation, and market forces within the solar industry. The plan has succeeded a lot faster than anticipated and the cost of PV is expected to decline by at least another 50% by 2020.” Paul Gipe

    The Feed in Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in Renewable Energy, the California FiT allows eligible customers generators to enter into 10- 15- 20- year contracts with their utility company to sell the electricity produced by renewable energy, and guarantees that anyone who generates electricity from R E source, whether homeowner, small business, or large utility, is able to sell that electricity. It is mandated by the State to produce 33% R E by 2020

    FIT policies can be implemented to support all renewable technologies including:
    Wind
    Photovoltaics (PV)
    Solar thermal
    Geothermal
    Biogas
    Biomass
    Fuel cells
    Tidal and wave power.

    So long as the payment levels are differentiated appropriately, FIT policies can increase development in a number of different technology types over a wide geographic area. At the same time, they can contribute to local job creation and increased clean energy development in a variety of different technology sectors.

    With the worlds carbon levels at 400-410 parts per million and rising, globally emitting over 32 Gigatons of CO2 each year, causing Global Warming and life changing pollution, Renewable Energy will address these issues and start us on the road back to 350 parts per million of carbon, Thank You Bill McKibben

    California law does not allow Homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems

    Allowing homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems, is a true capitalistic tool, that will give us the potential to challenge the utility monopolies, democratize energy generation and transform millions of homes and small business into energy generators, during Sandy, Solar homes where not utilized to their full potential, because there was no disconnect and or transfer switch, to turn off incoming grid and start in home Solar power. how comforting it would be, to have mandatory transfer switches on all residential and small business renewable energy installations.

    The state currently produces about 71% of the electricity it consumes, while it imports 8% from the Pacific Northwest and 21% from the Southwest.

    Natural gas was burned to make 45.3% of California’s power generated in-state in 2011. Nuclear power from Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County accounted for 9.15%, large hydropower 18.3%, renewable 16.6% and coal 1.6%.

    We need a National Feed in Tariff, for Renewable Energy, with laws that level the playing field, this petition starts with homeowners in California.

    Japan, Germany, and our state of Hawaii, will pay residents between 13 – 37 cents per kilowatt hour, here in California they will pay a commercial FiT in a few counties at 17 cents per kilowatt hour, No Residential FiT and they wont let us oversize our Residential Renewable Energy systems.

    Want to change our Feed in Tariff? Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition ?

    http://signon.org/sign/let-california-home-owners

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  • Here in the UK we had a great spree of sales whilst the tariff from reselling was high. Since the tariff has been lowered people seem less keen for solar panels. Installation costs still hold a big bite though too.