San Diego Leading the Charge in California’s Thriving Solar Power Industry

Image via Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation, www.wakelandhdc.com

San Diego is California’s top city when it comes to solar power generation and number of solar installations, according to a new study released by Environment California Research and Policy Center. Across the state, California’s power generation and installations have increased 100-fold in the past decade with San Diego leading the way, thanks to state and local policies.

Federal and state programs along with cheaper costs for installation have helped the solar industry grow exponentially throughout the state and it may be local programs that helped San Diego reach the top. The only general-market California solar rebate administered by a non-profit, the California Center for Sustainable Energy, in concert with San Diego Gas & Electric is one such program. Bringing affordable solar power to the residential market, this program has helped the San Diego market surpass larger cities such as Los Angeles, which comes in at second in both solar capacity and installations.

With growing concerns about the reliance on receiving electricity from non-renewable sources, air pollution and greenhouse gas emission from coal and natural gas power generation and increased energy demands, it’s still time to continue and increase investment in renewable energy and the solar industry. As well, the solar industry is becoming a major employer in the state, with more than 3,500 firms active in the solar industry employing more than 25,000 people. The report covers several areas where the state and local governments and businesses can help to continue the growth:

- Ensuring that the Million Solar Roofs Initiative, a state-wide program enacted in 2006 where $3.3 billion was set to be invested in small-scale solar systems, reaches its goal. The initiative is currently on track to reach its 2016 goal of 3,000 megawatts of solar generation capacity.

- Creating a net-zero energy building code to increase the use of solar energy in new construction.

- Adopting a strong feed-in-tariff policy to encourage solar power installation on warehouses, parking lots and other sites with low on-site energy demands but high levels of sunshine.

- Expanding financing opportunities for solar energy systems.

- Continuing to set ambitious clean energy goals and adopt innovative policies to achieve them. Governor Jerry Brown has set a goal of installing 12,000 MW in California by 2020, which would represent a 12-fold increase for today’s capacity. For comparison, Germany already has over 17,000 MW capacity installed.

In case you’re curious as the numbers behind San Diego’s solar industry, the city has a solar power generation capacity of 37 megawatts and over 4,500 solar installations. A pretty incredible factoid and a demonstration of how progressive California has been with its solar power industry is that if San Diego were considered a nation, it would be among the top 25 nations in the world in terms of solar capacity, surpassing nations like Mexico. In dollar terms, more than $9 million worth of electricity is annually produced by San Diego’s solar panels.

A close second in solar capacity and installation is Los Angeles, with 36 megawatts of capacity and 4,018 installations. Sebastopol is the leading city for per-capita installation with 10.3 installations per 100 residents.

To read the full report, which contains full statistics and methodology, visit Environment California.

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