California recently marked a major milestone in solar energy. The California Solar Initiative, a program of the California Public Utilities Commission, has reached more than 1,000 megawatts of solar power installed at homes and businesses. Commission officials say that's enough to provide power to 100,000 customers and avoid building two power plants.
The California Solar Initiative, created in 2007, aims to increase solar power consumption by offering incentive programs to residents, businesses, and other organizations that are in the customer service areas of Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and San Diego Gas and Electric. The program's 10-year budget is $2.4 billion, and the goal is to attain 1,940 megawatts of installed power by the end of 2016.
By the end of last year, the solar initiative had installed 1,066 megawatts, which is 55 percent of the program's total goal. There was also an additional 332 megawatts in pending projects, for another 17 percent of the total goal.
"California has the most customer-side solar installations of any state in the nation," said Michael R. Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, in a news release. "This is a tremendous milestone for California and a testament to the success of the California Solar Initiative."
Under the program, customers can get their incentive for solar installation in its entirety for small systems, and over a five-year period for larger systems. The smaller systems receive the Expected Performance-Based Buy-down, which is based on the system's capacity and adjusted to its expected performance level. The incentive for larger systems is the Performance-Based Incentive, and measures the system's actual output over five years. As the solar market grows and costs drop, the amount of the incentive declines, in order to eventually create a self-sustaining solar market.
Aside from this incentive program, the solar initiative has other components, including a research and development program and incentives for solar water and solar thermal systems. There is also the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes program, which has put solar in more than 2,000 low-income homes, and the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing program, which has reached 17 megawatts of installed power in affordable housing, with another 12 megawatts in pending projects.
"As we pass this significant milestone, I'm encouraged that the adoption of rooftop solar is accelerating," said California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark J. Ferron. "I hope that many more consumers utilize the California Solar Initiative program to go solar so that they, as well as the State of California overall, can realize the benefits from the 'Greening of the Grid.'"
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