A Million Solar Rooftops Not Just California Dreaming

According to a new report from Environment California Research & Policy Center, the state is on track to hit its goal of installing 3 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2016, having installed 1 gigawatts of rooftop solar panels already.

California’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative has certainly given the state an economic boost – its solar market has been growing by around 40% a year. Even if it should only continue growing at 25% a year, the 3 gigawatt goal will still be reached by the end of 2016.

Current installed solar panel capacity is generating enough clean electricity to provide the power needs of  600,000 single family homes says the Center. The massive uptake has been spurred on by the subsidisation of rooftop solar arrays on homes, commercial businesses, farms and government and non-profit buildings.

“California can become the Saudi Arabia of the sun if it continues to get behind big, successful solar programs,” said Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California Research & Policy Center. “All signs point to a bright future for solar power in California, meaning cleaner air, cleaner energy, and more jobs.”

California is home to around 20 percent of all solar power companies in the United States and its solar sector employs more than 25,000 people.

California Public Utilities Commission President Michael R. Peevey said of the total 1,000 megawatts of rooftop solar panels installed statewide, a record 205 megawatts has been installed during this year alone.

Even when the state does hit its target, there is plenty of room for further growth. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates California’s rooftops could host more than 80,000 MW of  solar capacity, which could supply a third of the state’s electricity needs.

While there is much celebration of the California’s progress, solar supporters aren’t resting on their laurels. A push is continuing for a strong feed-in-tariff program, a lift of the cap on net metering for small rooftop solar systems and a mandate that all new homes incorporate solar power systems.

“Building a Brighter Future: California’s Progress Toward a Million Solar Roofs” can be viewed here (PDF).