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The market for individual solar systems in California is booming, according to a new report from the California Public Utilities Commission.

In 2007, California launched a $3.3 billion program aiming to install 3,000 megawatts of solar power in the state within a decade. To this end, the Commission created the California Solar Initiative, with a $2.2 billion budget and a goal of 1,940 megawatt capacity by the end of 2016, with the remaining funding and power generation entrusted to utilities.

So far, the Initiative is more than halfway to meeting its goal, with 122,516 rooftop solar arrays generating 1,255 megawatts of energy, eclipsing the total generating capacity of one of the two nuclear reactors at the indefinitely idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

One aim of the Commission was to reduce the cost of solar, making the technology more accessible to a wider audience. Due to better technology, increased demand, and more efficient manufacturing, the cost of a typical residential solar array has fallen 28 percent since 2007, the Commission says. New solar projects in areas with a median income of $50,000 or less, meanwhile, have spiked 364 percent, and in areas with median incomes of $50,000-$100,000 have seen a 445 percent increase in demand.

Part of the boom is due to companies offering leased systems, where installation costs are covered by the panel provider, who then sells power to the consumer at a rate which is often below that charged by local utilities. Indeed, in 2007 a full 93 percent of new solar systems were purchased by homeowners, while about two-thirds are now leased instead.

Demand for solar continues to grow – last year new system installations were up 29 percent, accounting for a 38 percent growth in total generating capacity. And figures through the first three months of 2012 are up 60 percent over last year’s pace, with the opening quarter of 2012 seeing the addition of 97 megawatts of power.

If the figures for January through March hold up, it would take a little more than five years to completely replace the generating capacity of San Onofre.

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Comments

DA50 July 5, 2012 @ 8:53 a.m.

It's great to see solar taking off like this in California, and it's great to see business innovations such as solar leasing. Clean energy can be a great investment financially (http://www.energysage.com/why-clean-energy/its-a-great-investment) and environmentally. Consumers may just need to learn more about these benefits and adoption of these technologies could continue to soar.

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Founder July 5, 2012 @ 12:06 p.m.

Left unsaid, is that the CPUC's report says nothing about the foot dragging or the amount of money that is as yet unspent because of the administrative "barriers" that are preventing many others from installing solar as fast as possible...

Here is their report: http://is.gd/lmjE4v

Why are the "decision makers" making it hard of "regular" homeowners to install solar on their roofs and or allowing all those that are interested in doing so to get ultra low interest loans to do so, which in effect would magnify the number of installed solar panels?

Instead of touting their tip toeing forward, what is keeping them from really making it easy to get as many solar panels installed ASAP; in my opinion it is the MONEY they and the project management team get to administer the program...

I hope Dave Rice will do a follow on article about that and publish what it is costing us all just to "prolong" this program; imagine what the effect of installing solar panels 20 times as fast would do for the Energy security of the State of California!

One would almost think the reason is that installing more solar panels would cause the Utilities to lose some profits or make "fixing" San Onofre not worth the money, since solar is far safer and cleaner!

What is stopping everyone from asking, "WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG?"

Image from 2007:

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