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The History of Solar in San Diego County

San Diego is a gorgeous city nestled in the pioneering state of California, which houses brilliant innovative minds working relentlessly towards bringing about better alternative solutions to the existing ones. It comes as no shocker that San Diego was one of the few cities in the world to recognize the immense potential of solar power and make remarkable strides towards producing solar energy. 

Let’s go through a journey where we will dive into the history of the introduction of solar in San Diego and find out its inspiring evolution in the field of producing sustainable energy. 

When It All Started

San Diego happens to be the second-largest city in California and the eighth-largest city in the United States of America. To bring out the solar advent of San Diego, first, we will have to go through the solar evolution witnessed by California. You will be surprised to find out that the history of solar energy in California dates back to the year 1839, when French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel, discovered that a solar cell could convert sunlight into electricity. This phenomenon was later coined as the photovoltaic effect. Who would have known that few centuries down the line, the enterprising cities of California will firmly cement the fruits of the photovoltaic effect in their day to day lives? California witnessed the construction of the world’s largest photovoltaic facility in Camarillo by ARCO Solar in 1979, which was designed to produce 1 MW (megawatt) of energy per year. It might seem inconsequential at present, but as we have mentioned earlier, California takes pride in taking bold steps and making ground-breaking innovations before others could even think of it. In 1979, that 1 MW photovoltaic facility was a milestone for California.

When San Diego turned to the Sun for its source of energy

San Diego is an economic hub for the state of California was galloping ahead in terms of technology, development, job creation, to name a few during the late 20th century. People wanted a slice of San Diego’s shining future, and it was evident when the second largest city of California witnessed a surge of the population from the 1990s which grows unabated to this date. 

During the early 21st century, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) came up with both good news and bad news: 

  • Good news for the immense growth of San Diego 
  • The bad news was reserved for grave environmental concerns and the quantity of resources. 

The figures which were indicative of the growth of San Diego could be seen from the fact that the energy used in the residential sector increased nearly by 45%, and the commercial industry saw a growth of almost 108% during the early 21st century. The industrial sector at that time was witnessing a growth of 2%. According to the SANDAG regional growth forecast, by 2030, the local population of San Diego County “is expected to increase by almost one million people (32 %)”, which will bring an increase in housing units by four hundred thousand (26 %) as well as an addition of nearly half a million jobs (32 %) which will increase demand for energy.

The solar power energy in San Diego County

San Diego was facing the depletion of unsustainable energy sources. It was in a do or die situation- either formulate a plan to develop and produce a sustainable source of energy or face a complete halt of the galloping growth due to the depletion of unsustainable energy sources. The ay’ of hope came during 2006 when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Senate Bill for the upgraded solar program, California Solar Initiative’ which is an amended version of the Million Solar Roofs’ program. Today if you take a bird’s eye view of San Diego, you will see the roofs dotted with solar panels. 

Another breakthrough came during 2008 when San Diego created the now-famous Property Assessed Clean Energy programs, popularly known as PACE programs, which is a unique way to sponsor and finance solar energy, energy efficiency improvements, water conservation methods and most importantly upgrade renewable sources of energy which can be repaid through property tax bills. Currently, under the authorization of the law of California, County of San Diego is a part of five programs that aim to work towards energy conservation and spread awareness about solar panel installation.

The advent of solar panel installation in San Diego County

San Diego enjoys sunny weather all throughout the year, which makes it very conducive to derive its energy from its all-weather friend, the Sun. The clouds do not frequent much, and San Diegans are majorly seen basking in the glory of the Sun through most parts of the year. The switch towards solar panels to power up the homes of the County folks is also motivated by the fact that buying gas and electric power is proving to be very expensive for the San Diegans. The gorgeous city flaunts a very robust production of solar energy and together with the fact that gas is costly and has pushed the San Diegans to shift towards residential solar installations. Every year San Diego witnesses a rise in residential solar installations per capita. It is one of the best locations to install solar panels because it can flaunt electricity generation of 1478 kWh per year per 1 kW of peak DC.

The momentum of ushering in a wave of blazing solar energy is evident from the fact that as of 2009, San Diego County has housed 625 Clean Technology companies, out of which 100 companies are housed within the City of San Diego. The Country benefited greatly when it spurred its initiative to expand the scope of the San Diego Clean Generation Program during 2010 to include small businesses in the city and Multi-family units (5 units and larger) so that the number of people stands to benefit from the solar program. San Diego is aiming for a significant energy overhaul to go solar by 2035 and with the extensive awareness drive together with the attractive residential solar incentives, you shouldn’t be too surprised to see nearly all the rooftops in San Diego dotted with solar panels.

At this juncture, San Diego is at the cusp of a trailblazing solar revolution that is showing the world how to go solar in style. As of 2018, San Diego is one of the leading cities in the world in terms of the total number of solar PV installations. It has installed 287.2 Megawatts of solar PV and is second only to Los Angeles which has installed 349.3 Megawatts of solar PV as of 2018. Currently, San Diego is focusing on Mission 2035, where Mayor Kevin Faulconer has clearly elaborated upon his vision to go for a 100% renewable energy for the city by 2035 with the help of solar power. If figures are anything to go by, more than 50,000 customers who were earlier relying on gas and electricity for power, have installed approximately 350 Watts of solar PV on their rooftops.

The history of solar in San Diego County has seen phenomenal growth and a paradigm shift in the energy sector with the businesses and families aiming to go solar with the help of major solar plants and residential solar installations to power up their place. It seems like Mission 2035 is on its way to become a success.

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