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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: Misleading sub-title...
By StevoLincolnite on 6/12/2008 8:34:49 PM , Rating: 1
Untrue. Both solar and wind commercial power plants have availability factors that average 30% in highly-suitable areas, lower in others. That means even without any overlap whatsoever, one would only expect a maximum of 60% coverage.

Wind power at suitable sites in Australia has a 80-85% up-time at suitable sites, for instance, as I stated earlier, it's not the lack of wind thats the issue at our wind farm, it's "to much wind" which forces the operators to shut them down.

So it's highly Dependant on the region, if a company was silly enough to place wind generation somewhere where it was not optimal, then they didn't really think it through.

But why go through that damage at all, when one can generate 25 times the power in 1/100 the space, with a nuclear power plant?

Again it's Dependant on the area, where they placed the wind farms here, it was origionally crown land, meaning "Protected Land" where you couldn't go camping, or have animals and what not, about a 100 years or so ago, it used to be farm land, and because of this the entire place was pretty much barren, now once the wind farms were up and running, the entire area is being brought "Back to life" - so really in the end they probably did more good than harm, and over the past few years the Wind Farms -here- have been reliable, and it's actually a nice site, driving past them and seeing everything being regenerated thanks to the direct seeding of native flora.

Like with anything, you have to choose a balance of where you are going to place everything, and do allot of research on weather patterns, at the moment Australia's Renewable energy is at 11% for wind power generation, and is expected to grow to 41% by 2020.

RE: Misleading sub-title...
By masher2 on 6/12/2008 10:51:53 PM , Rating: 2
> "Wind power at suitable sites in Australia has a 80-85% up-time at suitable sites"

You've confused uptime with availability factor. The first refers to the portion of time it produces any power at all; the second to the ratio of average power produced to peak power output. An AF of 30% means a 1MW turbine averages 300 kilowatts on a continual basis.

> "if a company was silly enough to place wind generation somewhere where it was not optimal, then they didn't really think it through"

But that's just what's happening with this article. San Fransisco rooftops are not optimal locations for solar and, in many cases, not for wind either.

> "now once the wind farms were up and running, the entire area is being brought "Back to life""

I guarantee you that a massive wind farm is going to have a much larger impact on an area than a few oil wells will have in a place like ANWR.

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