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California shows solar power not just for the wealthy

Wednesday, June 27th 2012 4:48 PM
By GetSolar Staff.
California shows solar power not just for the wealthy According to recent research by Sunrun and PV Solar Report, the California home solar market has grown by 80 percent this year. The report identifies increased solar adoption in more cities as one of the major reasons for the spike in statewide solar projects.

The report also ranks several cities according to solar adoption rate. The top five cities are:

1. Santa Clarita
2. Castaic
3. Palmdale
4. Clovis
5. Pleasanton

The median household income of $57,000 for the top cities dispels the idea that rooftop solar installations are only for the wealthy.

"This list shows undeniable solar growth in a diverse range of cities, debunking the common misconception that solar is only for the wealthy,” said Stephen Torres, founder and managing director of PV Solar Report. "Key to this diversification is third-party-owned solar, which makes solar affordable for a wider range of homeowners."

One of the trends making solar energy more affordable is the growing availability of solar leasing. The leasing model reduces upfront solar installation costs, allowing homeowners to use the energy savings to pay for solar panels on a monthly basis. In nine of the 13 top-ranked cities, 75 percent of homeowners preferred the solar lease model over buying solar panels upfront.

"Home solar is at the tip of the iceberg in terms of growth," said Sunrun President and co-Founder Lynn Jurich. "As costs continue to drop and more homeowners realize they can go solar without high upfront payments, adoption will scale exponentially."

California schools develop solar power initiative

As homeowners look for ways to reduce their utility bills, schools facing tighter budgets have also turned to solar power as a way to reduce costs. The energy saving benefits have yielded significant results for schools in the the Los Angeles area.

The Los Angeles Unified School District recently completed a new solar installation as part of a solar power initiative started in 2009. The district has contracted five companies to complete the program, according to a recent Daily News article. The total expected cost of the project is $143 million, $98 million of which will be funded through the district's construction bond program. Another $31 million will be funded through rebates from the city Department of Water and Power and the last $14 million will come from a legal settlement with a utility company. The recent installation is a solar carport located on Ventura Boulevard and Winnetka Avenue, according to a recent Daily News article.

The new carport generates 492 kilowatts of electricity, and it is one of 60 solar projects the district plans to complete by 2014, reported Daily News. Once completed, the projects are expected to generate a total of 21.3 megawatts and save $350,000 to $400,000 per year, according to Kelly Schmader, chief of the district's Facilities Division. The rooftop solar installations are designed so that the schools utilize solar energy before turning to electricity from the grid.

There is some additional good California solar installation news. The number of solar projects for schools has been on the rise, according to Daily News. The Division of State Architect recently reported it has already reviewed 77 solar projects this year, compared with 36 in 2007. Schmader said some schools in the Unified district are getting close to being off the grid completely.

"Every nickel we spend is bond money, but all the savings are going to the general fund," Schmader said. "People look at these and ask, How can they afford to build projects when they're laying people off? I ask, How can we not afford them?"

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