Alternative Energy California: A Million Solar Power Homes?
It drops a previous provision, that doomed his "million solar homes" plan last year, that required that half of all new homes eventually be solar powered following opposition from businesses and the construction industry.
California builds about 150,000 new homes a year. Experience shows about 10 percent of homeowners would choose solar if offered the option – about 15 times the roughly 1,000 solar homes currently built each year in the state, said Bernadette Del Chiaro, a solar advocate for the nonprofit Environment California.
"It's clearly the most ambitious solar initiative ever proposed in the United States," said David Hochschild, policy director for the nonprofit organization Vote Solar.
The incentive approach is modeled on Japan, the world leader in solar power, which has seen a 72 percent drop in solar costs as 70,000 homes have been outfitted for the alternative power over the last 10 years.
California already is the third-largest consumer of solar power equipment, behind Germany, but gets 40 percent more annual sunlight than Germany and 20 percent more than Japan.
The goal is to have 3,000 megawatts worth of solar power by 2018, which amounts to about 5 percent of the state's entire electricity usage at peak periods – generally hot summer afternoons when electricity is most in demand, most expensive, and when solar panels are most efficient.
That's the equivalent of 40 new, $30 million, 75-megawatt natural gas plants. One megawatt is enough to power about 750 homes.
"We will be building literally power plants' worth of solar on roofs across the state," said Del Chiaro.
The goal is to create a large, stable solar market that will lower the cost not only of components but also of installation to the point that incentives will no longer be necessary to make solar energy affordable.