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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 JosefTor on 6/12/2008 2:20:42 PM , Rating: 5
I'm a nuclear reactor operator and I don't know why so many nuclear proponents dog other green options. Nuclear plants are not renewable! They are just clean energy (except for the whole massive drilling for uranium and other materials which causes a pretty big environmental dent). They are part of the solution and I hope that there is a nuclear resergence in America (it would be stupid if there isn't since they are the fastest way off of oil dependence in the energy sector). I hate the ignorance of our politicians on the safety of nuclear power plants. Oh wait... that's a different topic all together.

What I was saying is that solar panels are getting more powerful and more efficient, use a completely renewable source... the sun, don't require massive labor or construction costs, and by installing them on roofs they aren't lining the desert and can provide power for the house and possibly enough to sell back to the grid. Also, I've driven through the midwest and it is miles and miles (and miles) of desert. I've seen the towns there and I feel bad for them. By installing solar panels on these practiculary useless lands it will make them useful and provide them with jobs. I don't see the problem with that. It seems like wind and solar is a great idea for these undeveloped land. Nuclear power plants aren't that big (and pack a lot of power---which is why they are so useful) so it isn't like you are going to line the desert with tons of the plants. I am as much a fan of a nuclear resergence as you but... don't discredit other actually renewable sources of energy (and probably cheaper if you put all the costs together).

I definitely agree with you on the oil deposit thing. Democrats can largely be blamed for the price of oil today. We have massive oil reserves which don't really impact the environment much at all if we tapped them. Second... they want to tax American oil companies so we push them to find oil overseas and not in America??? Democrats need a lesson in economics. Too bad at face value their solutions seem great in a news report but in actually are bad for America. I'm VP of an environmental club E3 and we can promote a cleaner and more renewable earth but not at the expense of humans! If we are all poor then we aren't setting our future generations up for much either.

And yes drebo... I don't see how miles and miles of solar arrays and wind turbines is very environmentally friendly when oil rigs 50 miles off our cost or in Alaska aren't.

RE: I don't get it
By dblind1 on 6/12/2008 3:14:38 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I think at least some of the Democrats know what kind of change drilling our own oil will make. The bad thing is it is an election year and none of the Dems really want to see things turn around right before an election of 'change'. They can block it for 6 month and then the new Democratic President can say ... 'we should drill for oil in the US .. create jobs .. blah blah .. lower gas prices ... blah blah ... the republicans couldn't fix it .. blah blah ... look at us.' I just hope everyone looks and who blocked the opening up of US oil and remembers that when they cast their vote .. after all, 6 months more of climbing gas will do nothing more than make things worse for the economy.

RE: I don't get it
By masher2 on 6/12/2008 4:13:50 PM , Rating: 2
> "Nuclear plants are not renewable"

There's enough fuel on earth to last tens of thousands of years -- longer than all of recorded human history by far. I'd call that renewable for all intents and purposes...we're not going to exhaust it.

RE: I don't get it
By NicoloPicolo on 6/12/08, Rating: 0
RE: I don't get it
By Ringold on 6/12/2008 5:52:44 PM , Rating: 4
nuclear plants are not renewable

News flash: nothing on Earth is fully renewable. That includes the raw materials that go in to solar panels. Earth is a closed loop, unless we start pulling in raw materials from the Moon or asteroids. If you looked outside your comfortable little world you'd notice all the strange, varied markets across the world that are experiencing supply shortages due to solar and wind turbine construction -- wind towers, I've read, are gobbling steel, for example. Those towers will have to be replaced at some point over thousands of years -- and the gods aren't increasing Earth's supply of iron.

If any source that can last longer than recorded human history isn't enough for you, then its quite obvious you aren't looking for a real solution.

RE: I don't get it
By Spuke on 6/12/2008 5:54:33 PM , Rating: 3
then its quite obvious you aren't looking for a real solution.
His "real solution" isn't on the TV so it can't be right or desirable.

RE: I don't get it
By DASQ on 6/12/2008 10:10:36 PM , Rating: 2

Are you even reading what you post? Nothing is built to last forever, everything must be replaced eventually. Nuclear plants are one of the hardier ones. Wind turbines last for.. what... 30 years?

RE: I don't get it
By Spuke on 6/13/2008 12:37:06 PM , Rating: 2
It's not so much the turbines but the blades that require infrequent replacement. Usually from lightning strikes. Repairs are hella expensive too. Around $5k.

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