“To put this in perspective, it took California over 30 years to build 1,000 MW [i.e., 1 gigawatt] of rooftop solar, hitting that landmark in early 2013,” wrote California Solar Energy Industries Association (CalSEIA) Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro in a year in review statement last week. “Today, California is closing out the year with more than 2,000 MW of rooftop solar systems installed statewide. The CPUC’s latest figures report 1,917 MW of rooftop solar but those numbers exclude basically all of PG&E’s 2013 installations, by far the largest market in the state, as well as a significant number of installations in other utility territories,” she said.
One of the interesting things about the explosive growth in residential and business rooftop solar power is that most of this has happened after incentives offered by many utilities in the state have dried up. And the increases in installations continue to grow yearly. For instance, “California added 500 MW of distributed solar in 2012,” Del Chiaro said. Calling 2012 a former banner year in the state. “If California continues to grow its rooftop solar market at its 2013 pace, the state may very well top 5,000 MW in 2014—far exceeding the goals of the Million Solar Roofs Initiative which aimed to install 3,000 MW of rooftop solar [in California] by the end of 2016.”
In her statement Del Chiaro also observed that in all California now has more than 4 gigawatts of solar power installed in the state when utility-scale solar projects are included. “Nearly twice as much installed capacity as exists at California’s last remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon,” she said. All of which shows the success of California’s efforts to grow its solar industry across all segments from manufacturing to installing solar.
The previous successes don’t guarantee future success for the industry and for the continued growth of solar power in the Golden State. In fact, utilities increased their efforts to push back against incentive programs in 2013 and could face more battles in 2014. “Rooftop solar continues to face battles on multiple fronts with regards to net metering, incentives for solar heating and cooling systems, the future of tax credits, and the reining in of permitting and interconnection costs and obstacles,” Del Chiaro observed. “Whether California continues this historic growth depends largely on policy decisions to be made in 2014.”
The battles against net metering are gaining the largest media attention and aren’t occurring just in California but in many states where solar is popular including Colorado and Arizona.