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Solar Incentives
By: Michael Yeghiayan

The presence of solar energy in the California utility market is decades-old news for many individuals and businesses in the state. However, growth of the solar energy industry and a developing market have made the installation of a solar panel system an economically feasible investment.

According to figures released by the California Solar Initiative (CSI), completed and pending projects in the state represent 75 percent of the program’s goal of 1,940 megawatts by 2016. This past year was also the state’s most successful to date, with 391 megawatts installed in 2012 alone.

The program was funded by a $3.3 billion taxpayer funded budget with a goal of drastically reducing the total cost of generating energy through solar panels.

Because of the initiative’s tremendous scale, costs for installation have fallen drastically. Since the CSI’s inception in 2007, the price of a solar system has fallen by nearly a third.

The residential credits originally subsidizing the initiative have mostly expired, although some small incentives still exist for commercial installations. Although most incentive budgets set by the CSI have been exhausted, with most megawatt targets set by the state already realized, the growth of the solar industry has significantly decreased the costs of installation.

The installations of solar panels are also eligible for property tax exclusion in a number of states, including California. The system will not trigger a property value assessment that would otherwise occur with the completion of a new construction. 

A number of major American corporations have also adopted solar power to help offset utility costs and stabilize the ebb of inconsistent energy pricing. According to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Vote Solar Initiative, a nonprofit advocacy group, retailers such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Kohl’s, and IKEA are among the companies most heavily invested in solar energy. However, several businesses in manufacturing, automotive, and technology fields are also turning to solar to manage their long-term energy costs. 

“When you go solar, even without the incentives that once existed, the benefits are substantial,” said VoteSolar Policy Advocate Susannah Churchill. “It’s getting more and more cost effective by the year. Going solar offers the unique opportunity to offer a number of benefits at once- it contributes to environmental preservation and an economic engine that is one of the bright spots in the economy.”

The growth of the solar industry in California has significantly changed the state’s utility market. Individuals that considered a solar energy system in the past would be well served to take another look at the benefits of energy independence.