San Diego leads the state in number of solar installations
San Diego has more rooftop solar power than any other California city, with nearly 37 megawatts installed on more than 4,500 homes, commercial and government buildings, according to a report released Tuesday by Environment California, a statewide environmental advocacy group.
Los Angeles ranked second with 36 megawatts and more than 4,000 installations. San Jose is third with 31 megawatts and more than 2,700 installations.
One megawatt is enough to power 750 to 1,000 homes. But because the sun doesn’t shine all the time, solar industry experts say, 1 megawatt of solar power capacity is sufficient to power about 200 households.
The report, by Environment California’s Research Policy Center, attempts to quantify the rooftop solar systems installed on homes and commercial buildings throughout the state. The report does not include solar energy systems that are not connected to the electricity grid or large, utility-scale solar power plants.
The data reveals that solar is taking root in big cities and small communities across the state, with growth doubling in the past two years. California has gone from having about 500 megawatts of rooftop solar in 2009 to more than 1,000 megawatts today. And while large coastal cities are leading the way, Central Valley cities such as Fresno, Bakersfield and Chico also make the top 10 list. Small towns like Sebastopol, Nevada City and Portola Valley have high numbers of installations per capita.
“From Fresno to San Francisco and Clovis to Culver City, solar power is becoming a mainstream technology throughout California,” said Michelle Kinman, co-author of California’s Solar Cities 2012: Leaders in the Race Toward a Clean Energy Future report. “Solar power is booming in California and with the right leadership we can continue to benefit from the cleaner air and local jobs that this industry inevitably brings.”
San Diego is blessed with sunshine, and several of the city’s leading institutions, including police headquarters, libraries, UC San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene University and the Children’s Museum San Diego have all installed solar panels.
“San Diego didn’t become the state’s No. 1 solar city by happenstance,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said in a statement. “It was the result of local policies and programs that encourage investment in solar power.”
The California Center for Sustainable Energy, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization, also oversees rebates for San Diego Gas Electric customers who install solar via the state’s California Solar Initiative. In Northern California, PGE oversees the state solar rebates directly.
The San Diego utility proposed charging solar customers a “network usage charge,” which would have added about $20 to $30 to the monthly bills of solar homeowners. But after a huge outcry from consumers and the solar industry, state regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission rejected the proposal this month. San Diego city leaders are also actively engaged in efforts to grow the solar market, closely collaborating with industry on everything from how to streamline the solar permitting process to state and federal energy policy.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has installed solar panels on his own home and has made renewable energy a key platform of his “Green Vision” for the city. San Jose has major solar installations at eBay (EBAY), Cypress Semiconductor and the San Jose Unified and East Side Union High School districts.
Homeowners throughout the state are increasingly turning to financing options that allow them to install solar via third-party leases or power purchase agreements with companies like SunRun, SolarCity and Sungevity.
Solar currently accounts for less than 1 percent of the state’s electricity, most of which comes from natural gas, two nuclear power plants and hydropower. But advocates, including Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, want solar to play a key role in the state’s energy future, in part because solar projects generate local installation jobs.
Brown hopes to add an additional 12,000 megawatts of rooftop solar generation by 2020.
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.
California’s top 10
1 San Diego, 37 megawatts (MW)
2 Los Angeles, 36 MW
3 San Jose, 31 MW
4 Fresno, 22 MW
5 San Francisco, 17 MW
6 Bakersfield, 16 MW
7 Sacramento, 16 MW
8 Santa Rosa, 14 MW
9 Oakland, 10 MW
10 Chico, 9 MW
of solar power
power about 200 homes)
Source: Environment California
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