The California Solar Initiative (CSI) announced the State of California has officially surpassed one gigawatt, (GW) or 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar energy generation during the month of December. The CSI installed 1,066 MW by the end of 2012, and one gigawatt of solar electricity can power over 200,000 households.
“California has the most customer-side solar installations of any state in the nation,” states Michael Peevey, President of the California Public Utilities Commission. “This is a tremendous milestone for California and a testament to the success of the California State Initiative.”
The program, originally initiated in 2007, encourages homeowners, businesses, local governments and nonprofit organizations to install solar panels on their roofs. By offering various cash back rebates and simplifying the process for the end user, they have remained successful and track to meet their original schedule of building 1,940 megawatts of solar by 2017. Considering CSI currently has another 332 megawatts committed for installation, it seems possible they may even hit their goal early.
CSI’s effort has extended state-wide as cities like Santa Rosa and San Jose from the North shore and San Diego, Irvine and Fresno from the South shore are listed as some of the top 10 solar cities in California. San Jose alone has installed 54.6 megawatts on homes and commercial buildings, including the eBay headquarters and San Jose Unified School District, making it California’s top solar city. San Diego is a close second with 51.3 MW, followed by Bakersfield, Fresno and Lancaster.
Response for the CSI program has remained very strong; Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is still adding around 1,000 new net meter customers each month. After starting the initial rebates for the program around $2.50/watt in 2007, said demands shrunk below 20 cents/watt this year. “The robust response to the program, even as the rebates continue to shrink as planned, shows that solar can stand on its own,” said Danny Boyles of PG&E.
So far, 558 megawatts of solar power have been installed in PG&E’s vast Northern California territory. PG&E has more than 75,000 solar customers connected to the grid via net metering, which allows homeowners and businesses to offset the cost of their electric use with the rooftop solar power they generate and export to the grid. That’s more than any other utility in the country.
The goal of the state’s program is to help solar achieve what’s known in the renewable energy industry as “grid parity”—the much-awaited point where solar can compete with cheaper sources of energy such as natural gas. It offers financial incentives designed to decline over time as solar adoption becomes more widespread.