Solar Panels Big Hit In San Francisco – Despite Recession

by Gopalan on  July 8, 2009 at 1:20 PM Environmental Health   - G J E 4
 Solar Panels Big Hit In San Francisco – Despite Recession
San Fracisco authorities say subsidized solar panels are proving a big hit in the region.

In the first year of GoSolarSF, started in July 2008, 850 households, businesses and nonprofits applied to participate in the program. That compares with 200 who installed solar panels during the previous year."We're very happy with the numbers - it's been wildly successful," said Barbara Hale, assistant general manager for power at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Apparently recession has not dampened the green quest of the San Franciscans.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has made environmental initiatives a centerpiece of his campaign for governor, also announced Tuesday that solar panels will be installed atop three public housing developments near City Hall: Hayes Valley North and South and Plaza East in the Western Addition.

Newsom said other public housing developments due to be rebuilt under his Hope SF plan will also have solar panels installed during the construction process. He called rebuilding the projects without considering environmental upgrades a mistake that he wants to reconcile.

A new report issued Tuesday by Environment California, a nonprofit research center, showed that among cities around the state, San Francisco is third behind San Diego and Los Angeles in terms of sheer numbers of solar panels installed - and No. 1 on a per capita basis. Currently, San Francisco has 1,350 solar roofs and the mayor's administration has set a goal of 15,000 by 2018.

"From foggy town to solar city, San Francisco is making it happen," said Dan Jacobson, legislative director of Environment California. He said that despite the city's often gray weather, there's plenty of sun to power the panels. Germany and Japan, he said, have far less sunshine than California but are world leaders in solar power.

Much of the local effort is credited to the rebates issued by the PUC which range from up to $4,000 for private homes to up to $10,000 for businesses. Low-income families, 56 of whom have applied, can receive rebates of up to $12,000. The PUC will give out $6.3 million in rebates to the 850 households and businesses who've applied so far.

In its first year, the PUC spent $4.5 million on the rebates and has budgeted $5 million in the new fiscal year - enough to cover those who've already applied as well as more expected.

The average cost of installing solar panels on a home in the city is roughly $20,000, and state rebates and federal tax credit are also available to cover about half the total cost, San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Earlier in February this year Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the San Francisco Clean Energy Loan Program, billed as the largest local property tax-based loan program focused on greening local buildings.

"The climate crisis has brought our country to a crossroads that requires a far different approach to how we produce and use energy," said Mayor Newsom. "Innovative public/private partnerships, exemplified by this loan program, can help us point the way toward a cleaner energy future."

The San Francisco Clean Energy Loan program will complement GoSolarSF by providing borrowing options for residents to cover the remaining cost of their solar installations, and will also be available to help fund urban small scale wind projects, as well as energy efficiency upgrades. Building on the success of GoSolarSF, the city is working to help residents make energy upgrades on their buildings, so that even more residents can green their homes and businesses in a financially responsible manner. The result will be lower utility bills for local consumers and the greening of San Francisco's renewable energy portfolio, authorities said.

Source: Medindia

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