New solar program signed into law

June 18, 2008 4:24:09 PM PDT
San Francisco officials are hoping today's signing of new solar incentive legislation will turn the city into a national model for solar power.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, signing the GoSolarSF program into law on a sun-drenched rooftop in downtown San Francisco this morning, touted the effort as "arguably the most progressive approach of any city in the United States of America."

The 10-year, $3.5-million-a-year program aims to put solar panels on thousands of city rooftops by offering between $3,000 and $6,000 to residents who purchase solar panels for their homes, and up to $10,000 for businesses.

The standard 2.5-kilowatt systems typically cost about $25,000, but with the city incentive program, plus a state rebate and a federal tax credit, could be lowered below $15,000, according to city officials. The federal tax credit is, however, in danger of expiring if not renewed at the end of this year, officials said.

An additional $5,000 will be available to qualified low-income residents through the program.

"It's apparent that we can't drill our way out of this energy crisis," Barry Cinnamon, CEO of solar installer Akeena Solar, said today. Cinnamon said solar power would work for homes throughout the city, even in the often-foggy western districts. He said the difference in sunlight between the sunniest and foggiest parts of the city is only between 10 and 20 percent.

The typical house, Cinnamon said, could obtain "anywhere from 50 to 100 percent" of its electricity from solar energy systems.

City officials project the program could bring an additional 50 megawatts of renewable power to San Francisco.

On June 11, after some months of intra-city haggling, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the solar incentive ordinance, sponsored by Supervisor Bevan Dufty and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, by an 8-3 vote.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, one of the dissenting votes, had condemned the ordinance as a "duplicitous attempt to channel money" to private solar installation companies.