California has long led the charge for increased solar power, and now the state has another milestone worth noting: It's the first state in America to have 1,500 megawatts of solar power generated from rooftop solar panels.
The number of megawatts is substantial, and notable. The Sierra Cub says 1,500 megawatts of power is more than the total expected to be generated by four major fossil fuel plants proposed for California: the Oakley, Pio Pico, and Quail Brush natural gas plants and the HECA coal plant. It's also more than half the capacity of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego, though that is currently idle.
"This milestone shows how everyday people are making a huge impact in fighting climate change, and how rooftop solar has become a credible alternative to fossil fuels," said Evan Gillespie, director of the Sierra Club's My Generation Campaign, which supports clean energy development. "Rooftop by rooftop, solar power is becoming a positive force for clean energy, jobs and the environment, and once again California is leading the way."
The growth of rooftop solar panel installations in California has been attributed to the state's California Solar Initiative and the Go Solar California campaign, which aims to have 3,000 megawatts of power in the state and impacts policymaking, incentive guidelines, and other programs. Important among those are the Million Solar Roofs initiative, and leasing agreements in which homeowners and businesses work with solar companies to install panels for free, while paying back the solar company as power is sold to public utilities. At the same time, the price of solar panels was also falling.
"At a time when California's utilities companies and fossil fuel interests view rooftop solar as a threat to their traditional dirty fuel projects, this milestone is evidence that rooftop solar is ready to step up and compete as a major source of energy," Gillespie said. "It should be a wake-up call to the utilities that California's families and businesses want more access to solar, not less. Investor-owned utilities are increasingly waging attacks to slow the expansion of rooftop solar, which has become a cost-effective alternative for utility customers."
The power of solar was also affirmed by Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate for Environment California Research & Policy Center. "Today's solar milestone is a testament to California's commitment to a brighter, cleaner future. Homes, schools and businesses throughout the state are reducing air pollution, fighting global warming, improving the reliability of our electricity grid, boosting the economy and creating local jobs, all by going solar."