Los Angeles is a great place to invest in solar panels. Not only does the most populous city in the Golden State get plenty of sunshine throughout the year, but the city itself actively encourages its residents to go solar through its Solar Incentive Program (SIP). To make the cost of solar panels in Los Angeles a little more affordable, SIP offers rebates to residents who purchase or lease solar panels. (It helps to have the assistance of an experienced solar panel company in Los Angeles to obtain the rebate.) That’s right, Los Angeles will actually give you money to put solar panels on your roof. How does the SIP work, and, more importantly, how can you get your check in the mail?
In this article, we’ll explore the history of the Solar Incentive Program, explain how it can put money in your pocket, walk you through the steps to apply, and tell you why now is the best time to take advantage of the program. (Hint: It might not be around for much longer!)
Why Los Angeles Wants to Pay You to Go Solar
In 2006, the year of his re-election, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made history when he signed the California Solar Initiative (CSI), which required that all California utility companies implement a solar incentive program. The CSI was designed to increase the amount of renewable energy that California produced by making solar installation more affordable for businesses and homeowners.
Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles was ahead of the curve. Its massive public utility company, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) had already implemented its own Solar Incentive Program (SIP) all the way back in 2000.
The California Solar Initiative supercharged the LADWP’s program by handing the utility $313 million to funnel to its residents and businesses. In 2007, the LADWP Board of Commissioners released a revised Solar Incentive Program that offered rebates (also called “incentives”) to residents and businesses that installed solar panels on their property.
The program was designed so that the amount of the rebates would decline over time as certain solar power goals were met. The program was slated to wrap in 2017 (ten years after it started) or whenever the program met its solar energy production goals. Fortunately for you, Los Angeles still hasn’t met its goals, so the program is still currently open. (More on that toward the end of this article.)
How the California Solar Initiative Works
In the simplest terms, the SIP is a one-time rebate that is calculated based on the energy your solar panel system produces. In this way, the more energy your system produces, the bigger your rebate will be. The effect of this system is that homeowners who invest in larger (more expensive) solar installations will receive a bigger rebate to help offset their expanded costs.
One of the really nice things about the SIP is that it is available for homeowners who purchase or lease their solar panels. If you don’t have enough money to purchase your solar panels out-of-pocket, leasing allows you to get solar panels, often with no money down, for a fixed cost. As a bonus, you’ll still get your SIP rebate!
As of this writing, the SIP rebate for a residential solar system is $0.25 per watt.
How Much Can You Save?
How much savings can you expect from a SIP rebate? The answer will depend upon the size of your system and ultimately how its capacity is calculated according to the SIP’s formula. If you really want to know what type of rebate you could be looking at, it’s best to schedule a consultation with a solar panel company in Los Angeles. Your solar installation company can make a recommendation on the right size solar system for your energy needs and budget and then use that calculation to do some back-of-the-envelope math to estimate your SIP rebate.
Let us stress that these are only ballpark figures, and you should definitely speak with a professional solar installation company with experience in Los Angeles before making your purchase decision.
How to Get Bonus Savings
Want an even bigger rebate for your solar panel purchase? The SIP hands out a bonus rebate if you invest in solar panels (also called photovoltaic cells) that were manufactured in Los Angeles. Again, we encourage you to work with a solar panel company in Los Angeles to determine the right brand of solar panel for your project.
How to Qualify for the SIP Rebate
This whole “get the city of Los Angeles to give you money for purchasing solar panels” thing sounds pretty good, right? Before you start dreaming about how to spend your rebate check (tickets to Wicked at the Pantages, anyone?), make sure that you qualify for the program. It’s not that hard unless you veer pretty far off the normal solar panel path.
Here’s how to qualify for a SIP rebate:
- Be a customer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
- Purchase solar panels (solar batteries and solar water heaters do not qualify)
- Purchase solar panels and equipment that is certified, meet national standards, and come with a minimum 10-year warranty
- Purchase a minimum 1kW system with a maximum allowable system size of 5mW (megawatts)
- Hire a licensed California contractor to install the panels
These standards are relatively basic, and as long as you work with an experienced and trustworthy solar panel company and receive service from LADWP, you shouldn’t have to worry about qualifying for the rebate. Receiving the rebate, however, is a whole other can of worms!
A Step-by-Step Guide to Snagging Your SIP Rebate
This section will look at all the steps involved in applying for and receiving a SIP rebate for solar panel systems 10kW or smaller, which will cover the majority of residential systems. The steps may seem complicated, but keep in mind that your solar installation company should handle the entire process on your behalf. It’s useful to understand what’s involved in receiving the rebate, but you shouldn’t need to actually perform any of these steps.
- Step One: Your solar installer will complete the PV Preliminary Review Information Sheet. You should answer “no” to each question. If you answer “yes” to a question, your solar installer will need to schedule a pre-construction meeting with an LADWP Electric Service Representative.
- Step Two: Your solar installer will submit your LADWP Solar Reservation Request through the LADWP’s PowerClerk Database on your behalf.
- Step Three: Upload the following documents to the PowerClerk Database to reserve your rebate:
- A signed reservation request form
- A copy of your solar panel installation contract or your lease agreement
- Your most recent LADWP electric bill
- A solar inspection agreement
- Electronic document authorization form
- Energy audit
- Residential Disclosure Agreement
- Preliminary Review Information Worksheet
- Copy of Ten Year Warranty
- Step Four: Assuming your solar installation company knows what they’re doing, you’ll be approved by the LADWP Solar Group and receive an Incentive Payment Claim Form. Your installer will need to complete and submit this form when your solar panel installation is complete.
- Step Five: Your solar installer will need to pull the required permits in order to start on the installation. A company with a lot of experience working in Los Angeles should have no problem with this step.
- Step Six: Once all the permits are successfully pulled, your installer can get to work installing your system. At this point, you can just step back and watch as your roof seems to magically sprout solar panels overnight.
- Step Seven: When your solar system has been installed, your solar contractor will contact the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) to schedule a final inspection. The city will send out an inspector to make sure the system meets all the city’s codes and requirements. As long as you use a legitimate solar installation company, your system should pass inspection with flying colors.
- Step Eight: Once you get approval from the LADBS, your installer can formally submit an Incentive Payment Claim Form to the LADWP. Along with this form, the installer will also have to submit:
- A copy of the approved Building and Safety permit
- A copy of your invoice for the solar panel system. The invoice must show a zero balance
- Step Nine: Thought you were done? This is a bureaucracy; of course not! Once your solar installer submits the rebate claim form, the city will send out a Solar Inspector to verify the size, tilt, orientation, and shading of your system in order to confirm that your solar system will produce that amount of power you claim. The inspector will also confirm that you used the equipment you listed in your submission. If everything looks good, the Solar Inspector will install your net meter so that you can actually turn on your system. Hooray!
- Step Ten: If everything goes according to plan, your Solar Inspector will submit the approval of your system, and you will – at long last – receive your rebate check in the mail. Aw, the sweet smell of success.
Why You Should Call a Solar Panel Company in Los Angeles ASAP
At the beginning of the article, we mentioned that the LADWP’s Solar Incentive Program was designed to run out in 2017 or when the LADWP had met its solar power generation goal. The calendar says that it’s past the middle of 2018, and the program is still active, which means that it’s basically living on borrowed time.
We honestly don’t know when the LADWP will meet its solar power generation goal and close down its entire rebate program. It could happen next month, next week, or even tomorrow! In fact, all of the public electric utilities that service neighboring San Diego have already run through their incentives and closed out their own rebate programs. We should also mention that the federal government’s huge, 30% solar tax rebate will be phased out after 2019. Sooner than you think, there may be no incentives or rebates available for solar installation.
If you are considering solar panels, there is seriously no better time to invest in solar power in Los Angeles. Hopefully, this has shown that the LADWP’s solar rebate program can be a little complicated. That’s why it’s so important to work with a local solar panel company in Los Angeles that understands exactly how to use the program. You wouldn’t want to miss out on your rebate, because a national solar installation company doesn’t know what they are doing!
At Semper Solaris, we are proud to have locations throughout California, including in Los Angeles. Our Los Angeles team knows how to obtain SIP rebates for our clients in a smooth and effective way. To start on your solar journey, contact us for a free energy analysis today.