California Solar Power Facts in 2021

California solar program

The Golden State can boast as many as 284 sunny days per year. California solar panels are the future of this state’s energy, as the state leads the USA and sets an example for many states and foreign countries. California is currently the No.1 state for solar power in the U.S, with over 32 GW of solar capacity installed.

As over 1 million California homeowners have opted for a home solar system and with current solar prices dropping, now is the best time to switch to solar resources and gain control over your electric bill. Electricity bills in California are 29% higher than in the rest of the U.S, so installing solar panels makes a lot of sense. Furthermore, reducing your carbon emissions has massive benefits for the environment

California Solar Energy Data

Solar installation is on the way to becoming the energy source of the future in California. This state is the first in the USA by the total capacity of their solar systems. The current capacity is enough to supply more than 1,340,000 California homeowners with renewable energy. Compare this to solar panels in Texas for a better idea of what makes California solar No. 1 in the USA. 

Solar installers in this state employ a total of 68,700 people. With over 2,400 companies working in the solar industry, it is also one of the more important driving forces behind the California economy. With the production of over 24% of total electricity in California, it is also a big contributor to the decarbonizing economy. 

California can boast with its 284 sunny days per year. This state of sunshine and long summers is the ideal place for anyone who would want to go solar. With anywhere between $12,700 – $17,100 for an average 5kW solar system, a California homeowner can reduce at least 80% of their electric usage and save a corresponding amount of money on their electric bills. 

In total, a Californian home can expect to save anywhere between $44,700 and $60,500 over a course of 20 years, while any solar energy system is designed to last at least 25 years. This means that rooftop solar panels are a better investment than most other options there are. If you want to go solar in California, look no further since this state is the USA No. 1 for solar development. 

California Solar Statistics

DescriptionStatus
California National Ranking1st
Solar Panels Installed(MW)32,393 MW
Can Supply Power to: (No. of Homes)+8,430,000
% of State's Electricity from Solar24.25%
Solar Companies in the State2,437 (410 Manufacturers, 1,164 Installers and Developers, and 863 Others)
Solar Jobs Created68,677
Total Solar Investment in the State$74.5 Billion
Out of Pocket Cost for a 5kWh system$12,700 - $17,100
Net 20-year savings$44,700 - $60,500
Average Payback Period5.5 - 7.5 years
Electricity Bill Offset for a 5kWh system+80%
Number of Solar Installations+1,340,000

Notable Solar Installations in California

The vast majority of California solar panels are residential solar. They produce most solar power in California. However, there are also a number of large-scale solar farms in this state and they focus on two main approaches to generating solar energy: solar PV and concentrated solar power. These are the most notable solar installations in California: 

  1. The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm – a 550 MW solar farm, it is capable of satisfying the energy needs of 142,000 homes – compare this to the largest solar panels in Florida
  2. The Topaz Solar Farm – a 550 MW solar power farm, enough to supply 142,000 California homes with renewable energy, 
  3. The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility – a 392 MW solar power tower concentrated solar production facility, can power 101,000 homeowners with renewable energy, 
  4. The Solar Energy Generating Systems – a 361 MW concentrated solar power plant, which can satisfy the energy usage of as many as 93,000 households, 
  5. The Maverick Solar Cluster – a group of power plants, their can produce 303.9 MW of solar power, just enough renewable energy for 78,000 homes, 
  6. The Desert Stateline Solar Facility, a 300 MW power plant, powers 77,000 homes with renewable energy, 
  7. The Mojave Solar Project –  a 280 MW parabolic concentrated solar power station, powers 72,000 California homes with clean electricity, 
  8. The California Flats Solar Project – a 280 MW solar photovoltaic power plant, enough for 72,000 California homes, 
  9. The Genesis Solar Energy Project – a 280 MW concentrated solar power plant, satisfies energy usage of 72,000 Cali homes, 
  10. The Mount Signal Solar project – a 265,7 MW solar farm, 68,000 homes can go solar thanks to this project, 
  11. The California Valley Solar Ranch – a 250 MW solar photovoltaic farm, can power 64,500 homes, 
  12. The Redwood Solar Cluster – a group of four solar stations with a total solar energy output of 100 MW, can supply clean electricity to 25,800 homes.

Of course, there are many more California clean energy projects waiting to be constructed. Long-term planning and ambitious plans to produce 100% of California electricity by 2045 are the main drivers behind California home solar and utility solar developments. 

Why is California a strong market leader in Solar Energy?

There are several factors that make California a strong market leader in solar energy. First of all, the California climate provides plenty of sunlight, so that any solar investment is sure to pay off in just a few years. With 284 sunny days, California is one of the sunniest of the USA states. 

Furthermore, significant solar rebates and financial incentives make this state one of the best for solar. On top of state and local incentives, as well as equity programs, come the federal tax credit which significantly reduces the cost of your solar. With a low average cost and very low regular maintenance, residential solar in this state experienced a significant increase in the past several years. 

There are other regulations and tendencies that made California the sunny heaven it is today: 

  1. The Renewable Portfolio Standard – 60% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2045, 
  2. California Solar Initiative – a 2006 initiative authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission which incentivized the population to go solar in the early years, when the technology was still expensive, 
  3. Net-metering – net metering brough the average cost of every kWh used down significantly, with excess solar energy being transferred to the grid and back to the household as it is needed. 
  4. Mandatory California solar power in new homes – every new building project, especially large scale, has to install solar panels. Depending on the area and project size, different solar installation sizes are mandatory. 
  5. Streamlined permitting – this system was designed to reduce paperwork necessary to set up a solar system. Solar energy can now be produced at a lower price, since there is less paperwork to pay. 
  6. Alameda county solar financing – PACE financing enables solar pv systems to be funded through savings. You install the panels and see your electric bill go down. The reduction in your electric bill is then paid as an increased property tax. This avoids the upfront payment. 
  7. Other local incentives. 

Average Cost of Solar Energy Systems 

As the technology progresses, solar costs drop significantly. Currently, the cost to install solar is at its historic minimum. Solar in California has dropped some 36% in price in the past 5 years and around 80% in the past decade. As more advances are made, the technology is set to become even cheaper, especially in the solar battery storage sector. 

Currently, a new solar installation owner can expect to pay anywhere between $2.41 to $3.27 per watt of DC power. Solar panels have never been this cheap, so an average 10 kW system would cost on average $28,400. A system this big could easily offset 100% of a large household electricity cost. 

If you want to install solar panels, you should see this as a great solar investment, rather than an expenditure. After all, the initial solar cost pays off within 5.5 – 7.5 years and the period after this is the money back in your pocket. The excess energy produced during the day can be stored in solar battery storage or sent to the grid, which then acts as your solar storage. Many homes can save a lot of money by using net metering, on average between $44,000 and $60,000 over a 20 year period. 

Solar Panel Energy Production in California

As with any other technology, solar panels California had very humble beginnings. Back in 2001, there were only 543 GW of solar panel energy generated in this state. As the solar companies installed more solar panel system capacity, so did the California solar generation. In 2010, the generation grew to 771 GW per year. 

Since then, the prices of solar dropped 80% and solar panel cost per watt became affordable for most homeowners. Home solar boomed and within 5 years, in 2015, the total solar electricity in California reached 14,800 GW per year. The solar incentives that were introduced gave a boost to the solar industry and solar systems started appearing over rooftops across the state. 

The home solar system became the new norm in building, and solar panel installation started being seen as a necessity and not a luxury. In 2020, the total solar generation in California was the highest ever, at 30,500 GW of energy. Solar installers still work hard to get new solar panel projects online and meet California’s ambitious green goals. 

California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is somewhat more ambitious than in other states. California vowed to produce 20% of its electricity from renewables by 2010 (has not met), 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2045. This is 5 years ahead of many other U.S. states. California wants to see its carbon footprint reduced to 80% lower than it was in 1990. 

California Solar Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits

If you would like to go solar in California, there are a number of solar incentives that you can apply for. Every home solar system is eligible for significant federal and state rebates and programs that can significantly reduce the cost of solar irrelevant of the solar system size. There are several solar financial incentives, rebates, and tax credits that you can apply for on top of the net energy metering program offered in the state:  

  1. Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, 
  2. Net metering in California, 
  3. DAC-SASH, 
  4. Solar Energy System Property Tax Exclusion
  5. Local Solar Rebates. 

There are also home solar battery storage incentives and rebates for those who would like to increase their energy independence and prevent future blackouts from posing threat to their comfort. The price of your California solar battery storage can be significantly reduced through: 

  1. Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, 
  2. Self Generation Incentive Program SGIP, 
  3. Equity Resilience Incentive. 

Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit

Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit allows you to recover up to 26% of the cost of solar installation through tax credits. The credit is applied to your Federal Taxes only, so make sure that you pay enough in Fed Taxes for the incentive to make sense. If you cannot use all the ITCs in a single year, you can roll them over for up to ten years. 

The Federal Tax Credits change over time, depending on when your solar system is installed: 

  • 2021 and 2022 (January 1st 2021 to December 31st 2022) – you can get 26% of the total cost back through tax credits, 
  • 2023 (January 1st to December 31st) – you can get 22% back in the form of federal tax credit, 
  • After December 31st 2023 – you can get up to 10% of the cost of your solar PV system back in the form of federal tax credit for utility-scale projects. Residential solar is not eligible for any tax credits past 2023. 

Net metering in California

Net metering is a great combination for any home solar system. Under this form of state incentives, you can send your excess energy produced onto the grid which acts as your solar battery. Once the sun is gone and you start spending more electricity than you can produce, you pull the energy back from the grid. 

Not all net metering programs are created equal, so here is a list of the best net metering programs in California: 

  • Southern California Edison, 
  • Pacific Gas and Electric, 
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, 
  • San Diego Gas & Electric. 

DAC-SASH

The DAC-SASH program is a program aimed at single-family solar homes in disadvantaged communities. It provides upfront rebates for those who would like to install a solar panel system on their home, lower their energy bill and stay safe from power outages. To apply for the program, you must be a customer of Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas, and Electric, or San Diego Gas & Electric utility company. Under the SASH program, you can receive up to $3.00 per watt of installed solar power. 

Local Solar Rebates

Residents of San Francisco and Sacramento can get between $100 and $2,000 per kW of installed home solar. The cash incentive is limited to systems up to 4 kW in size. If you live in Rancho Mirage, you can expect to get $500 back for your permit fee. Always ask your local utility company or municipality bills. Solar can save you money in more ways than simply reducing your electricity bills. 

Self Generation Incentive Program SGIP (SGIP Incentive)

SGIP incentive is available for customers of Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, or San Diego Gas & Electric. You can get up to $200 per kWh of battery capacity back in the form of rebates. Solar systems were never this cheap and batteries are expected to further drop in price. 

Equity Resilience Incentive

The equity resilience incentive or equity resiliency rebate program is a program under which you can get significant rebates to install battery storage to store electricity generated by means of a PV array or other energy sources. The rebate is available to anyone who has suffered from power outages before, such as the public safety power shutoffs done by electric companies in times of distress. Distress in this sense are wildfires, storms, and general grid instability. 

To be eligible for the program, you should also have a medical condition where your life depends on electricity supply (life-support systems), OR you should be receiving funds from the SASH program or rely on an electric-powered well for domestic water. You can expect $1.00 per watt of installed storage capacity. This generous rebate covers around 100% of your expenses. 

Solar Energy System Property Tax Exclusion

Under this program, you can expect to pay the same amount in property taxes before and after installing your solar panel system. Installing solar on your rooftop can increase the value of your house significantly. To further stimulate people to invest in solar, the Golden State decided not to charge taxes on property value added by your solar panel array. 

This is the solar price breakdown for a 10kWh system owned by a family that is not eligible for SASH or Equity programs. 

DescriptionEquivalent Cost
The Cost of PV - 10kWh at an average of $2.84 per Watt of Solar Installed$28,400
The Federal Solar Tax Credit @26%$7,384
San Francisco Solar Rebates @$100 per kW (minimum)$1,000
Solar savings through electricity bill reduction @100% @$0.2143 per kWh$192.23 per month
TOTAL system cost for a 10kWh home solar system at the end of year 1$17,709.24
Years before a 10kWh system pays off if all California solar incentives are taken 7.67 years

Top Solar Companies in California

There are 2,437 collar companies working in California (410 Manufacturers, 1,164 Installers and Developers, and 863 Others). If you want to choose your solar installer, you may face difficulties, as choosing the right one depends on so many factors. Luckily, we ran our own research to provide you with the list of the top ten solar installers in California: 

  1. G C Electric Solar, Burbank, 
  2. Future Energy, Coarsegold, 
  3. Forme Solar, Los Angeles, 
  4. SolarUnion, San Francisco, 
  5. American Array Solar and Roofing, Livermore, 
  6. AWS Solar, Ventura, 
  7. Solar Optimum, Benicia, 
  8. Altair Solar, Irvine, 
  9. GIMenergy, Los Angeles, and 
  10. PerryBuilt Construction, Soquel, 

FAQs

How can I get free solar panels?

You can get your solar panels for free in California if you apply for and are eligible for a SASH program. This program for homeowners of a certain household income can bring back up to $3.00 per Watt of solar panels installed. At an average price of $2.84 per watt of solar power, you will get more money than you pay for your solar panels. The rest of the money can be used for permit fees and other expenses of solar installation. 

What are the negatives of solar panels?

The biggest negative or con of solar panels is the fact that it does not produce electricity if there is no sun. However, there are ways to work around this. Combining a solar system and a solution to store energy, such as home solar battery storage will provide you with power 24/7/ Alternatively, you can send all excess solar energy that your solar system produces back to the electric grid. This way, you will use all the benefits of net metering and avoid the extra costs of a home solar battery storage. 

Do solar panels damage your roof?

No, solar panels do not damage your roof. Solar panels do present additional weight to your roof, but the extra weight of any solar system is way below the bearing capacity of any roof. Some homeowners say that the solar system even extends the life of their roof, as the tiles and the structure are protected from the elements. 

Is it worth going off-grid?

Yes, going off-grid with residential solar is worth it. It takes some 5.5 to 7.5 years for solar system cost to pay off, and a little more (usually 10-12 years) for your solar battery storage to pay off. The time beyond these two thresholds means the money in your pocket and resistance to power outages and shutoffs. 

Conclusion

As over a million California homeowners have decided to take energy independence back into their hands, and lower their electric bill, it is obvious that this is a great solution. Installing a home solar system was never cheaper, as the price of solar per watt is at its historic minimum and almost every utility company offers significant rebates. After all, solar takes the burden off the electric grid, especially if combined with a way to store energy. 

Property tax exclusion, reducing your carbon footprint and affordable cost of solar, regardless of the system size are all ways in which you can afford to protect yourself and your family against power outages. Significant financial incentives save your budget and the nature, so make sure you use 100% of those 284 sunny days the Golden State offers. 

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