California’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative On Pace To Meet 3 GW Goal


According to a new report from the Environment California Research & Policy Center (ECRPC), the state's Million Solar Roofs initiative has demonstrated a track record of success: The program – currently halfway through its legislatively mandated timeline – is on pace to meet its goal of installing 3 GW of solar capacity by 2016.

California also recently reached the milestone of installing more than 1 GW of rooftop solar power across the state – a milestone that only five countries in the world have reached, the report says.

‘California can become the Saudi Arabia of the sun if it continues to get behind big, successful solar programs,’ says Michelle Kinman, a clean energy advocate at the ECRPC and co-author of the report.

The 2006 Million Solar Roofs bill was historic in both scope and scale, representing the first unified state effort to turn solar power into a commonplace and affordable energy resource for average citizens, the report says. The law established a 10-year, statewide interagency effort, now called the Go Solar California campaign, which includes programs that fund solar projects on homes, commercial businesses, farms, and government and nonprofit buildings.

Even in a weak economy, California's solar market has been expanding by about 40% per year, the ECRPC says. If the market continues growing at a rate of 25% per year, the state will achieve the 3 GW goal by the end of 2016.

Five years in, the Million Solar Roofs Initiative is one-quarter of the way toward meeting its goal. Since the first solar panels under the program were connected to the grid in 2007, California has installed nearly 800 MW of solar photovoltaic power.

In addition, the report found that California is home to about 20% of all solar power companies in the U.S., with more than 3,500 firms employing more than 25,000 people. The industry has roughly doubled in size since 2007.

California has tremendous untapped solar energy potential, the ECRPC says. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the state could host more than 80 GW of rooftop solar capacity – which could generate more than a third as much electricity as California uses in a year.

If Gov. Jerry Brown achieves his goals, California will have 12 times today's number of solar roofs by 2020. To get there, Environment California and allies are advocating that the state continue to push strong initiatives, including a robust feed-in-tariff program, a lift of the cap on net metering to continue to support small rooftop solar systems, a mandate that all new homes come equipped with solar systems, and a renewal of programs such as the Public Goods Charge.

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