A July 2012 report from the California Public Utilities Commission finds that the Golden State has reached a major milestone in solar energy development.
In 2011, California became the first state to install more than one gigawatt (the equivalent of 1,000 megawatts) of customer-generated solar energy, the commission report said. In 2011 alone, a record 311 megawatts were installed in the investor-owned utility territories across California, according to the 2012 California Solar Initiative Annual Program Assessment.
"California's solar success is unmatched in the nation," said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey in a press release announcing the new report. "In the first quarter of 2012, there has already been 97 megawatts of solar installed."
That means the California Solar Initiative (SCI), the nation's largest solar program, is on pace to reach 1,000 megawatts in installations this year, Peevey said.
The commission report found that 1.255 gigawatts of solar power are now generated from more than 122,000 rooftops across California. Also, more low- and middle-income homeowners are going solar, according to the report.
The costs for residential solar systems have decreased by 28 percent since 2007, the report said. At the same time, CSI projects in low-income markets (areas with average incomes of less than $50,000) have increased by 364 percent, according to the report.
Also, about 1,500 low-income homeowners have installed solar panels to generate energy and reduce their utility costs. Most have received financial help from the Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program, officials said.
CSI projects in middle income markets (areas with median incomes between $50,000 and $100,000) have increased by 445 percent since 2007, and comprise the majority of applications received in 2011.
In another development, the Multi-family Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program completed 181 projects as of April 30, 2012, with a capacity of 9.1 megawatts, the report concluded.
In just over two years of operation, the CSI-Thermal Program, which provides rebates for solar water heating systems, has received 704 applications for $4.87 million in incentives.
- Michael Chagala