As 2019 draws to a close, it's a good time to talk about some of the great things that happened over the course of the year. Among those fantastic things is the fact that the state of California now has over 1 million solar roofs. These roofs, which cover buildings from businesses to private homes, were installed for a variety of reasons, including concern for the environment and a desire to spend money and resources more wisely.
In 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set up an initiative that poured over $3 billion into rebates for solar installation. The initiative was incredibly successful, as its goal - 1 million solar installations statewide - only took 14 years to reach. Schwarzenegger believes that this rebate program was a crucial part of growing the market for solar panels and reducing the price of solar installations to a more easily affordable amount.
In 2017, San Diego became the #1 ranking city in the United States in terms of solar installations and replaced Los Angeles in the role of leading the country in its quest for increased use of clean, sustainable energy. San Diego's city leadership is passionate about protecting the environment through the responsible use of natural resources and plans to achieve city-wide 100% clean energy by 2035.
To make sure this happens, the city has set a number of measures in place that make it easier to install solar panels. For example, the turn-around time for single-family residential roof-mounted solar project permits was reduced from 10 days to 3-5 days, and city offices encourage solar power customers to electronically submit forms in order to save time. Through these and other similar measures, San Diego has maintained its spot as the nation's leader in solar panel installations and is on track to achieve freedom from fossil fuels on schedule.
As their goal for solar panel installations has been met and exceeded, California's leaders are looking ahead to find different ways to increase the use of solar power. A new rebate program has been suggested that would encourage the installation of 1 million solar batteries by 2025. These batteries would enable people to store solar power in their homes, something particularly helpful in a state that frequently uses "public safety power shut-offs" to protect residents from accidental electric ignition that could lead to forest fires.
However, there has been some pushback. Reduced electrical rates for solar customers, combined with net energy metering (solar customers being compensated at retail rates by investor-owned utility companies for the solar energy they export) means that solar customers are paying less overall than users of traditional energy. This could mean that if more people begin installing net energy metered solar panels and batteries, people without solar panels will end up covering most of the cost of maintaining the entire power grid.
Switching to solar power is still a priority, though, even for critics of the proposed solar battery rebate program. It's been suggested that, instead of dispersing solar panels among individual homes and businesses, it would make more sense to consolidate resources and create large-scale solar farms that would be less expensive for the individual. Although rooftop solar panel and battery proponents say that solar farms would potentially cause too much pollution, this conversation suggests that a solution favorable for solar power in some capacity will be found eventually. With California's continued innovation and leadership, the future of solar power looks bright.