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‘Solar San Diego’ Is Leading the Way in the Energy Revolution

With many rooftop solar panels appearing on houses all over the city, it would come as no surprise if the city of San Diego became known as “Solar San Diego.” The city has become so energy aware that San Diego has been recognized as one of the leading solar energy producers in the United States, and a majority of that solar energy is coming from residential construction. Is it time for you to join the solar movement in San Diego and make the switch to solar energy?

When it comes to solar, San Diego generates more power from grid-connected solar panels on residential, commercial, and government buildings than any other city in California

According to an analysis released on Tuesday by the Environment California Research & Policy Center.

The study heralds San Diego’s role as a leader in the deployment of rooftop and similar on-site solar installations. There were more than 4,500 solar installations within city limits as of August 2011, ahead of runners-up Los Angeles and San Jose, the analysis found.

“San Diego has been an early and consistent leader in terms of embracing robust solar policies”

– Michelle Kinman, co-author of the study.

The report focuses on solar photovoltaic systems mostly owned by ratepayers or third-party financing companies, as opposed to electric utilities. Data was provided by state regulators, the state’s private and public utilities, and the California Center for Sustainable Energy that administers state solar initiatives in the San Diego area.

The report did not include solar energy systems that are not connected to the grid because of limitations on data.

California’s Top Cities for Solar: San Diego Leads

California’s top 10 solar cities Peak capacity in megawatts Number of installations
San Diego 37 4,507
Los Angeles 36 4,018
San Jose 31 2,733
Fresno 22 2,146
San Francisco 17 2,405
Bakersfield 16 1,643
Sacramento 16 1,119
Santa Rosa 14 1,467
Oakland 10 1,010
Chico 9 1,170

Source: Environment California Research & Policy Center

For all its solar progress, San Diego trails other areas in per capita measurements. The greatest penetration rates for solar are in the Bay Area, the Sierra foothills, and the Central Valley.

In several small towns in northern California, there are roughly 10 solar installations for every 100 residents. San Diego has between three and four solar installations for every 1,000 residents.

Among larger cities, Santa Rosa and Clovis stand out in terms of solar-power adoption, with about 10 installations, or 80 kilowatts of capacity, per 1,000 residents.

Small Towns Embrace Solar

Top solar towns per capita Installations per 100 residents
Sebastopol 10.3
Newcastle 10.2
Nevada City 9.9
Penn Valley 8
Coarsegold 6.3
San Diego 3.5 per 1,000

Source: Environment California Research & Policy Center

Kinman said some of the geographic imbalances can be traced to higher levels of home ownership in some small communities. Rental properties and multifamily dwellings have been slower to add solar equipment.

“That happily is changing as the state is promoting policies that promote renters and multifamily projects getting access to solar”

– Michelle Kinman

California leads the nation in rooftop solar generation, surpassing the 1-gigawatt capacity mark last year.

Gov. Jerry Brown has set a goal of producing 12 gigawatts of distributed electricity generation capacity, mostly through rooftop solar, by 2020. The state’s total peak electricity demand was about 64 gigawatts in 2011.

The on-site generation goals are separate from requirements that electricity retailers procure 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020.

The Environment California Research & Policy Center provides research on government incentives and public policies that can lead to more distributed solar installations.

It is not a political lobbying group.

Those on-site solar installations are seen not only as a way to decrease dependency on fossil fuels but also as a way to reduce the size and number of power lines by producing electricity closer to where it is used.

The report released on Tuesday recommends maintaining or enhancing state provisions for “net metering” that allows utility customers who generate a one-kilowatt hour of energy to buy one less from the utility. San Diego is about halfway toward a cap on net metering currently set at 5 percent of peak demand.

Utilities including San Diego Gas & Electric have begun to question the fairness of net metering provisions that they say force non-solar customers to pay a greater share of infrastructure costs. The intermittent nature of solar power also presents future challenges in balancing electricity production and demand.

SDG&E has proposed its own pilot programs that would allow customers to offset electricity bills with solar-generated electricity from installations within the utility’s service territory.

The Environment California study was financed by several private foundations: Arntz Family Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Michael Lee Environmental Foundation, the Sidney Stern Memorial Trust and the Tilia Foundation.

If you’re interested in joining the rest of “Solar San Diego” in making the switch to solar energy, contact Semper Solaris for more information.

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