By Tim Henderson
California has been leading the country in renewable and solar energy for many years. In fact, California invested so heavily in solar power a few years back that the state sometimes pays other states to take excess energy off its hands.
Here’s what you need to know about solar energy as it exists in the state today, and what the market looks like going forward.
California has been increasing its solar power capacity over the last several years.
As of right now, California leads the nation in distributed generation, with just under 6,000 Megawatts installed in 2017. Multi-family affordable solar housing is popular, and the average cost-per-watt of systems has been falling consistently since 2007.
This massive uptick in solar power is due, in large part, to the California Solar Initiative and the fact that solar panels have become more efficient and less expensive in recent years, which has encouraged private and commercial consumers to take advantage of them at increasing rates. In 2016, for example, just under 5% of the state’s total power generated came from rooftop panels.
Again, this has a great deal to do with rapidly decreasing solar panel prices. Between 2010 and 2016, the price of commercial-scale products, for example, dropped 73%. Today, solar power in California costs about 5-6 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The cheaper panels get, the more competitive they become with other sources of electricity. Subsidies have helped drive this forward. As subsidies increase, consumers have greater access to solar panels and are more likely to install a system on their homes.
Currently, systems like the SGIP exist to encourage self-consumption and help avoid negative pricing trends, while also maximizing savings for homeowners who install solar systems, especially those who might otherwise see their savings drop because of PG&E settlements and changes to TOU periods.
California solar rebates look promising in 2018 and beyond. Here’s what residents and homeowners can expect this year:
California also offers a program called PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy, which is a financing option with potential tax benefits. You can also look into net metering and the SGIP, or Self-Generation Incentive Program, which provides incentives to support new, existing, and emerging distributed energy resources. While the details remain uncertain, it’s worth noting that the Trump Tariff is expected to create an increase in solar prices later this year, so financing and rebate options are especially useful right now.
As California looks forward to 2018 and beyond, it’s safe to say the state of solar power looks bright. In addition to new programs, increasing rates of solar installation, and an excess of energy in California’s grid, the state is seeing unprecedented rates of solar installation and interest from consumers and homeowners across the state.
Tim has worked in the solar industry since 2008. He has a Master's Degree in Energy Resources Engineering from Stanford University. His years of experience include working on solar energy projects for both homes and commercial properties. Tim enjoys sharing his knowledge of this evolving industry and making a difference in his community.
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