Solar Rays Power the Golden State


Did you know California has the largest installed solar capacity of any U.S. state, as much as the next six top solar producing states combined? Solar installations in California can support over seven million households. In unincorporated San Diego County, over 6,000 solar permits produced 324,543 megawatt hour (MW-h) of electricity in 2018.

Through the County’s Climate Action Plan Measure E-2.3, Install Solar Photovoltaics in Existing Homes, obtaining a permit to install a rooftop solar system on your home is an easy, streamlined process.

Background and Benefits of Installing Solar Panels

Solar energy can be captured in a wide variety of ways, from thermo-energy systems, to Concentrated Solar power (CSP) and Photovoltaic systems. Photovoltaic (PV) solar systems are most commonly associated with solar electricity production due to their widespread use in the last two decades. These are the dark-blue panels that dot rooftops, parking lots and sun-facing hillsides and open spaces. PV panels we see are actually large clusters of solar cells, each made with semiconductors which absorb a tiny fraction of the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity.

A solar installation in San Diego County can dramatically reduce monthly electricity bills and even earn a household money through selling electricity back into the grid. Solar systems can have high up-front costs, but multiple federal and state level programs can soften these costs, and the system can pay for itself in a few years, after which all the electricity generated is ‘free’. Other benefits that go beyond cost savings include the zero-carbon output of generating electricity from solar, off-grid capabilities for power outage situations, and real estate benefits of having a solar system installed in a house.

Home with solar panels.Home with solar panels installed. Photo source: Pexels.

San Diego County Incentives

Solar projects on residential property in the San Diego region have a combined capacity of 880 Megawatts, according to Go Solar California, a joint initiative between the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and California Energy Commission (CEC). This is the second-highest capacity for solar of all counties in California.

The County of San Diego reduces costs of installing a solar system by waiving building permit fees for solar system installations for unincorporated county residents. Permitting is also streamlined at the county with online permitting available and clearly identifying approved materials and substitutions to avoid a lengthy plan-change process. Financing options can be found through the County’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which offers financing that can be repaid through property tax bills. Don’t forget about the Federal tax credits mentioned earlier!