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Solar power in California has been growing rapidly, because of a Renewable Portfolio Standard which requires that 20% of California's electricity come from renewable resources by 2010, and 33% by 2020. Much of this is expected to come from solar power.

California leads the nation in the total number of homes which have solar panels installed. Many were installed because of the million solar roof initiative.[1] In 2008, the state decided that it was not moving forward fast enough on photovoltaic generation and enacted a Feed-in Tariff.[2][3]


Renewable Portfolio Standard

California increased the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 33% by 2020 in 2008. Each utility is also required to reach 20% by 2010. In 2006, California produced (and/or imported) about 295,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity, which is expected to decrease by 10% over the ten year period beginning in 2009, due to efficiency increases. The principle renewable sources in 2006 were hydroelectricity, 48,431 GWh, geothermal, 13,226, organic waste, 5,682, wind power, 4,420, and solar power, 616.[4] The capacity factor of solar is approximately 20%, so 30,000 GWh (roughly 33% of total generation, subtracting other sources) would require approximately 17,000 MWp of solar power. Wind, at a capacity factor of 35%, would require 9,800 MWp of wind farms to produce the same total. At the end of 2008, California had 792 MWp of solar and 2,517 MWp of wind farms. California officials are now attempting to import the form of feed-in tariffs, a tool similar to what Europe has been using, to encourage the solar power industry. Proposals were raised aiming to create a small-scale solar market in California that brings the benefits of the German market, such as distributed generation, which avoids the need for transmission because power is generated close to where it's used, and avoid the drawbacks such as excessively high payments that could become a burden on utility customers.[5]


California Solar Initiative

The California Solar Initiative is a 2006 initiative to install 3,000 MW of additional solar power by 2016. Included in it is the million solar roof initiative.[6]

Net metering

California has a favorable net metering law, being one of five states to receive an A, while five states received an F, in an evaluation of the 38 states plus Washington D.C. which have net metering.[7]

According to the CPUC, homeowners, businesses, and local governments installed 158 Megawatt of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2008, doubling the 78 MW installed in 2007, giving California a cumulative total of 441 MW of distributed solar PV systems, the highest in the country.[8]

Many of the homes, schools and businesses which have installed solar panels can be monitored online on the internet.[9]

Alameda County

Using a 20 year property assessment, Berkeley plans to be the first city in the country to allow thousands of residents to obtain solar power without any initial payment. In the plan, property owners pay as much in increased property taxes as they save in energy costs, allowing them to install the panels for free at no cost to the city. Thirty eight projects are being installed for the pilot stage of the program.[10]

Mojave Desert

Over 1,000 Megawatts of solar projects have been proposed for the Mojave Desert, in order to allow California to obtain 33% of electricity from renewable resources by 2020.[11] Environmental opposition prompted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to say, "What they have here is a case of environmental regulations holding up environmental progress. I don't know whether this is ironic or absurd. But, I mean, if we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don't know where the hell we can put it."[12]

The largest solar power plant in the world is the 354 MW solar thermal SEGS plant, completed in 1991.


The goal is to install 3,000 MW by 2016. California has more photovoltaics installed than any other state, and 69% of the total in 2007. For the first time in 2008 the installed photovoltaics exceeded the states 354 MW of solar thermal.[13]


  1. ^ Million Solar Roofs Initiative
  2. ^ Are Feed-in Tariffs a Possibility in California?
  3. ^ California Approves Feed-In Tariffs, Rewards Energy Efficiency
  4. ^ California Electrical Energy Generation
  5. ^ "California Eyes Euro-Style Market For Solar" (htm). DOW JONES NEWSWIRES. Octoboer 6, 2009.  
  6. ^ The California Solar Initiative
  7. ^ Report: States Falling Short on Interconnection and Net Metering
  8. ^ CPUC Press Release
  9. ^ Live monitoring
  10. ^ Berkeley FIRST retrieved 4 February 2009
  11. ^ BrightSource signs 1,300 MW solar deal retrieved 01 March 2009
  12. ^ Governor Schwarzenegger’s Keynote Address at Yale Climate Change Conference
  13. ^ California Solar Photovoltaic Statistics & Data retrieved 01 March 2009

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