Solar is America’s fastest growing industry, expanding 69 percent last year alone. Harnessing the solar radiation makes perfect sense, especially in sunny Southern California. The rapid growth and increased deployment of distributed generation solar-powered homes across the nation can greatly be credited to energy bill savings, a $0 lease option and the drop in solar panel prices. In addition to the abundance of sunshine in our region, there are various incentives for solar that makes now the perfect time to declare energy independence. Incentives available for residents to go solar range from hyper-local, to statewide and national.
Starting with the local community, the San Diego Solar Program is a countywide incentive available for all property owners to receive up to $1000 cash-back on their projects. The local program is administered by Sullivan Solar Power, who is working to encourage the creation of strong solar communities throughout Southern California. Participants are able to go solar for $0 upfront and receive a cash-back incentive greater than the State rebate.
The decreased price in solar panels can be attributed to the Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit and the California Solar Initiative State Rebate, which have helped change the value proposition of solar.
State rebates through the California Public Utilities Commission are still available through the California Solar Initiative. The incentives, however, are dwindling quickly and will eventually run out as the number of rebate reservations being submitted to the program continue to increase. The three investor-owned utilities (IOUs), Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and San Diego and Electric (PG&E) have rebates administered separately but have the same 10-step rebate structure.
In the SDG&E service area, the State rebate is currently in the tenth step at $0.20 per Watt. For a 5,181 watt system, the average size of a solar system in San Diego County, the homeowner would receive a check for $1,036 for their solar system from the State rebate. However, the incentives will continue to drop until program funding runs out, which is expected to take place in 2013.
The federal tax credit allows for homeowners to receive a 1-to1 credit against tax liability for 30 percent of their out-of-pocket project cost. If a homeowner installs a $20,000 solar project, they will receive a 30% credit, which is equal to a $6,000 tax credit payable in April of the following year. The credit is able to carry from year to year until fully exhausted and is planned to last through 2016. The federal government incentive has made solar an attractive investment for homeowners across the Country.
While all solar incentives available to homeowners have spurred the growth of renewable energy throughout our region and state, they will all come to end. The hyper local incentives are the closest to our community and the first to expire. The San Diego Solar Program is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012. To learn more about the San Diego Solar Program or any of these incentives, visit www.SanDiegoSolarProgram.org.