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Individuals can receive up to $6,000 under the new grant program, amounting to one big green tax cut for the citizens of San Francisco.  (Source: Elsa Wenzel/CNET)

The current solar power installations in San Francisco are pictured; expect a lot more dots coming soon.  (Source: San Francisco Solar Map)
San Francisco is looking to get off the grid and save money with a vast solar push

Independent solar power efforts are growing rapidly.  With a number of businesses providing unique, online-coordinated installation options, individuals and small businesses are adopting the technology.  And part of the new rate of adoption is thanks to local government grants. 

Many cities and states give citizens large grants to bear some of the capital brunt of buying solar panels.  These grants are in essence a big tax break as the consumer will typically make a good deal of money of the solar panels in their lifetime.  They are the alternative energy version of the business world's small business grants.

This Tuesday, San Francisco looked to keep the good times rolling and put some green back its citizens' pockets with the approval of a massive new grant campaign.  Solar panel manufacturers and installers received the news with giddy anticipation and are preparing for the new boom.

For the next ten years, citizens can get $3,000 to $6,000 in a one-time grant to install panels.  Both businesses and charities are also receiving some solar love.  Businesses and nonprofits can get $10,000 grants, while nonprofit affordable housing can get up to a whopping $30,000.  Mayor Gavin Newsom states, "This rebate program further establishes San Francisco as America's solar energy leader and symbolizes the commitment of the city to make affordable solar power available to those who want it."

The mayor says the program should launch this July and will only cost the city $3 million yearly.  He says the benefits are far reaching and go beyond just putting money back in the hands of consumers and businesses in energy cost savings.  Newsom says the program will attract businesses and will grow green jobs.

If San Francisco can really pull of the green transformation it will be a significant accomplishment.  In the green-savvy California, San Francisco has traditionally been somewhat of a laughing stock of the alternative energy community.  The city was ranked last in the Bay Area by a recent assessment by the San Francisco Solar Task Force.  Of the city's 195,000 rooftops, only 744 had solar panels, less than 1 percent.

The mayor hopes that the new efforts will panel nearly 10,000 rooftops over the decade, or roughly 5 percent of the city's rooftops.  If successful, this would produce around 50 MW of power.

Lyndon Rive, CEO of installer SolarCity, whom DailyTech recently reported on, is thrilled by the effort.  He anticipates the number of panels tripling and as the city's largest solar installer; he's in prime position for success.  With 40 current employees his company is expanding with a "green" job training initiative in a low-income part of the city.  Rive complements the new program stating, "It's simple, easy to understand, and easy to implement."

While his company offered solar leasing, he acknowledges that this strategy was not as cost effective and that most citizens couldn't afford it.  Now between city, state, and federal tax credits, rebates, and grants, an average consumer who would have paid $30,000 for panels can pay a mere $6,000.  Kevin Gage, sales director for San Diego-based installer Borrego Solar states, "This is just gonna spur the industry.  The market was essentially shut down in San Francisco. Now a lot of companies like ours are gonna move into San Francisco."

Ironically the approval was announced the same day San Francisco utility Pacific Gas & Electric announced a 6.5 percent electricity rate hiking on surging fossil fuel costs.  San Franciscan Sylvia Ventura is excited about the relief the move may provide her fellow citizens, but she's a bit fearful that the myriad of installers will confuse them.  She states, "This business was done for a long time in the shadows and some installers took advantage of people being intimidated by the data, not understanding metering, wattage, and what to pay."

She and her husband Dan Barahona launched a new effort, One Block Off The Grid, which aims to use collective bargaining and other subsidies to further reduce the cost of the panels to an attractive price of "free".  She says that the first 50 homeowners that sign up for the program will receive panels free of cost, thanks to the effort's clever negotiating.  However, corporate partners are still in the process of being secured and the list is currently only half full.

Whether the new grant program is a glowing success or just a modest one, at the end of the day its putting money back in the hands of the hardworking tax payer.  With rising energy and food costs, the consumer in San Francisco will finally get to see some light.

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RE: I don't get it
By gmw1082 on 6/12/2008 12:05:02 PM , Rating: 5
While I agree with what you say, your comments are outside the scope of this article. These grants are about installing solar panels on rooftops, not littering the countryside with so called green solutions.

RE: I don't get it
By drebo on 6/12/2008 12:39:58 PM , Rating: 2
Is it, though?

Roof-top solar solutions are NOT going to be enough to power a whole city, under any circumstance. It can augment the power grid, sure, but never will it be the sole provider of power.

However, the more these so-called "green" solutions are advocated and promoted, the more people will think they are a viable solution to replace our entire power source. This will lead to the stonewalling of any other type of mass power generation, such as nuclear.

Government endorsement goes a long way with consumers, and that's exactly what this is.

RE: I don't get it
By Wolfpup on 6/12/08, Rating: 0
RE: I don't get it
By FITCamaro on 6/12/2008 2:09:08 PM , Rating: 3
Fisson is a terrible idea unless we find some way of disposing of it's waste-and so far we've found none.

Uh....yes we have. It's called fuel reprocessing. And you can do it practically forever. The French do. The British do. The US does not. Because it can produce weapons grade material which people complain about.

RE: I don't get it
By NicoloPicolo on 6/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: I don't get it
By Denigrate on 6/12/2008 5:14:08 PM , Rating: 3
You have no idea what you are talking about. Last article I read stated that after use, nuclear fuel is ~97% used up, and the remaining portion has a half life of 200-300ish years. The fuel is basically recycled over and over again, which flies in the face of your position. Do some research before you open your mouth and spread FUD. It'll save us from having to tell you just how wrong you are.

RE: I don't get it
By JonnyDough on 6/14/2008 8:57:53 AM , Rating: 2
RE: I don't get it
By Wolfpup on 6/16/2008 9:57:33 AM , Rating: 2
From what I've found with a quick search even at best that doesn't eliminate all the stuff that needs to be disposed of-and they're still building yuka-mountain-esque places in Europe.

And as mentioned, the "bury it" idea doesn't actually work. Yuka mountain is a sham, at best.

RE: I don't get it
By JonnyDough on 6/16/2008 9:50:56 PM , Rating: 2
I think the idea is that it won't find its way into our lives by being buried in a mountain. A long time from now we'll let future humans deal with it. Maybe they'll have better science then to get rid of it.

That's just like our generations to go thinking that way though, isn't it? Sometimes our daily lives reflect throwing trash out the window on the highway and letting someone else pick up our mess.

RE: I don't get it
By arazok on 6/12/2008 3:09:27 PM , Rating: 2
Fisson is a terrible idea unless we find some way of disposing of it's waste-and so far we've found none. Now if they get fussion working well enough that it's generating power

The waste is completely disposable if we choose to. You can store it indefinitely (as we do now), bury it (as we will eventually), or you can reprocess it (as we should). Reprocessed waste has a half-life of ~100 years, at which point it can safely be disposed of.

And I'm completely baffled by these comments. How is reducing the amount of energy you have to use by switching some of it to solar a bad thing?

It's a great thing if you feel it's justified and pay for it yourself. It a bad thing if you feel it's justified and I pay for it.

RE: I don't get it
By Wolfpup on 6/16/2008 10:05:52 AM , Rating: 2
The waste is completely disposable if we choose to. You can store it indefinitely (as we do now), bury it (as we will eventually), or you can reprocess it (as we should).

It can NOT be disposed of. We're not capable of building completely sealed storage devices that will last hundreds of thousands of years (at least not at present). Human beings have NEVER built anything like that, and we're talking about needing to store this stuff longer than not only any country has lasted, but longer than humans have even existed to date. Does that honestly sound feasible?

Reprocessed waste has a half-life of ~100 years, at which point it can safely be disposed of.

Even if true, and even if you were left with nothing but material with a half life of 100 years, that would still mean you'd need to store this in a fool proof way for thousands of years-not 100. Granted that's more plausible than hundreds of thousands to millions of years, but it's still a huge risk, still would have to outlast any country that's ever existed. And that's assuming the hype about it is actually true, and the rest of the materials can actually be used, etc.

I'll say it again-if we get Fussion to the point where it's economical, we've got something. Fission is an insane way to try to replace fossil fuels-especially when we have cheaper alternatives!

RE: I don't get it
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2008 4:19:02 PM , Rating: 2
Fisson is a terrible idea

Yes but right now its the best we've got. So shut it.

RE: I don't get it
By Wolfpup on 6/16/2008 10:14:12 AM , Rating: 2
Wow. How insightful. This takes the cake for nuclear fanbois. Care to explain why perusing fission is a better idea than other options we have?

RE: I don't get it
By FingerMeElmo87 on 6/12/2008 2:51:20 PM , Rating: 3
Roof-top solar solutions are NOT going to be enough to power a whole city, under any circumstance. It can augment the power grid, sure, but never will it be the sole provider of power.

its not ment to be genious. solar panels are just a supplementary form of power which will help the person that has them reduce there dependence non-renewable energy. thus saving money and reducing the overall carbon foot print of the populous. it makes perfect sense

RE: I don't get it
By Spuke on 6/12/2008 3:33:47 PM , Rating: 1
That's not his point. His point is that it gives regualr people the impression that it WILL be the entire solution since it works on a small scale which is misleading.

RE: I don't get it
By JonnyDough on 6/14/2008 9:00:27 AM , Rating: 2
Is it? You don't think that as solar panels become cheaper and bulk pricing comes into play as more are made due to this "push", and that as the technology continually improves this couldn't be a future answer? What if tomorrow they came out with a cheap 65% efficient panel? Boy, wouldn't you feel like a dumbass?

RE: I don't get it
By Samus on 6/13/2008 3:03:48 AM , Rating: 2
they aren't intended to power a whole city, just offload a little bit of stress from the utility companies. these small array's can easily power a house. the batteries in my friends setup are always above 50% and during the day he produces so much power it is recycled into the power grid, meters, and he gets a paycheck from ComEd (our electric utility) every two months.

the setup cost him $20,000 and he received a $5000 from the federal EPA greenpower grant in 2006. it has already paid for half of itself in 3 years!

RE: I don't get it
By Spuke on 6/13/2008 12:12:13 PM , Rating: 2
How large is his place and how large is his system? $20k sounds like a REALLY small system.

RE: I don't get it
By elgueroloco on 6/13/2008 2:18:56 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree that solar will never be able to power a city. Current solar technology won't; however, recent discoveries and the technology that will come from them could make it happen.

Let's look at some numbers. With current technology, 5% of SF's rooftops should produce 50MW, according to the article. A recent experiment with silicon microwires (covered in a DT article) found that solar panel output could be increased seven fold (and more cheaply than current tech). Assuming that further work does not improve on that, that would bring that number up to 350MW being generated by 5% of SF's roofs. Now, let's say we put panels on 100% of SF's roofs, that would bring the total up to 7,000MW. I don't know how much it takes to power a city, but 7GW seems like it might be sufficient.

Also keep in mind that currently solar panel installations do not cover the whole roof. They cover only about 1/3 to 1/2 of a roof. If we were to cover the whole roof, we could double that to 14GW. Seems pretty viable to me. Now we just need to make it cost-effective.

RE: I don't get it
By Jeff7181 on 6/13/2008 6:58:33 PM , Rating: 2
As I see it, the goal is not to replace other power sources with wind or solar power, but supplement them.

I think it's a good idea... get more people to adopt and buy the product so the companies making the product can spend more on R&D to make the product better and cheaper.

Would be pretty nice if you could put a $5,000 solar panel roof on your $200,000 house and save $1,000 a year in electricity and heating costs.

RE: I don't get it
By JonnyDough on 6/14/2008 9:02:55 AM , Rating: 2
No, the goal IS to replace them as more environmentally friendly and economical sources. However, right now the most we can do is supplement because we can't change our entire energy system overnight.

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