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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Solar Energy

San Francisco Solar Strategies for 2009

Rainy San Francisco is sunrays ahead of other cities in putting all that ambient light to work with renewable solar energy cogeneration on rooftops. Check out the options!

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Renewables Update by Carolyn Allen

San Francisco currently (2009) offers the largest local solar incentives in the U.S. for residents and businesses through the GoSolarSF program. This local incentive, when paired with the federal tax credit and the California Solar Initiative, cuts the cost of an average residential solar installation by approximately half. Since the inception of GoSolarSF in July of 2008, monthly solar applications have spiked in San Francisco by over 300%.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has announced an important step in the advancement of the country’s largest local property tax-based loan program focused on greening local buildings. The San Francisco Clean Energy Loan Program, will loan money to San Francisco residents and businesses to install solar energy systems on their rooftops and make energy efficiency upgrades to their buildings.

RFP for Private Sector Lender

A public Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued by the City’s Office of Public Finance in February 2009 to solicit a private sector lender to partner with the City to implement this landmark energy loan program. The RFP issued for San Francisco’s Clean Energy Loan program, which calls for a program as large as $20 million, seeks a private sector partner or partners to fund the program and assist the City in its administration. When implemented, it will be the largest such program in the U.S. to date. A pilot solar loan program using this model of lending is successfully underway in Berkeley, California.

February 17th is the deadline for a letter of intent to submit a proposal to the City; March 3rd is the date set for the bidders conference, and final proposals are due April 1st. The RFP issued for San Francisco’s Clean Energy Loan program, which calls for a program as large as $20 million, seeks a private sector partner or partners to fund the program and assist the City in its administration. When implemented, it will be the largest such program in the U.S. to date. A pilot solar loan program using this model of lending is successfully underway in Berkeley, California.

February 17th is the deadline for a letter of intent to submit a proposal to the City; March 3rd is the date set for the bidders conference, and final proposals are due April 1st.

San Francisco Clean Energy Loan program

The San Francisco Clean Energy Loan program will complement GoSolarSF by providing borrowing options for residents to cover the remaining cost of their solar installations, and will also be available to help fund urban small scale wind projects, as well as energy efficiency upgrades.

Building on the success of GoSolarSF, San Francisco is working to help residents make energy upgrades on their buildings, so that even more residents can green their homes and businesses in a financially responsible manner. The result will be lower utility bills for local consumers and the greening of San Francisco’s renewable energy portfolio.

With the recent tightening of the credit markets, home equity and consumer financial products have become harder to obtain for many people who otherwise have above average credit scores and traditionally pay their debts on time. The Clean Energy Loan Program seeks to address this challenge.

Loans will be attached to the building rather than the borrower—a key element of making these loans feasible for homeowners. Residents will repay the loans over 20 years through a special tax on their property tax bills. By providing greater security for the lenders, the program in turn will allow them to make more loans available, to more people, on more competitive terms.

This low-interest loan program is the missing piece of the affordability puzzle. It will provide San Francisco home and building owners access to the remaining funding they need to make energy improvements to their buildings.

Solar Cities Grant

The city of San Francisco was one of 13??? cities who were awarded “solar cities” grants, in which they received about $2M each to promote renewable energy.

Sizing your Solar System

The following resources can help you size your solar PV system:

San Francisco Solar Map -- Provides information on the amount of solar potential your home or building has and includes case studies of what other home and business owners are doing to support solar energy.

Local Solar Installers -- Search for renewable energy retailers in your area who can help determine an optimal PV system and design for your facility. Soliciting at least two to three bids from different solar installers is preferable. All installers should provide you with a free site visit and quote.

PV Calculators -- Calculators provide California residential and commercial electric customers a personalized estimate of the costs and benefits of investing in a photovoltaic (PV) solar. It will also allow you to plug in a system capacity in kW, view your savings, and see how much of your own electricity you can generate.

San Francisco Department of Building Inspection -- Provides details on the city’s permitting requirements.

Champions Course for Citizen Solar Advocates

Would you like to become a Solar Champion in your neighborhood? The San Francisco Department of the Environment and PG&E are offering free solar training for SF citizens interested in helping spread the word about solar in their neighborhoods.

The energy center provides a solar energy fundamentals class taught by Pete Schoemaker. This “Solar Champions” couse trains people how to give Pete’s world class slideshow to neighborhood meetings, HOA’s, wherever, whomever. The idea is to use proactive citizens to educate the public on solar.

Solar Neighborhood Champions Class

San Francisco developed a special educational and grassroots power system to spread the word about solar solutions -- the Neighborhood Solar Champion program.

Requirements:

  • Interest in promoting solar energy in your neighborhood
  • Commit to giving at least two presentations in your neighborhood a year
  • Comfortable with public speaking
  • Ability to participate one full day of training
  • No prior solar technical experience necessary (though helpful)
Learn more about current outreach programs at the San Francisco Environment department.

To Register:

1. Go to PG&E's Class website or call (415) 973-2277 and register for the “Solar Power Basics for Residential Customers” class, and

2. RSVP to Jason Houck, SF Department of the Environment (email: jason.houck@sfgov.org; tel: (415) 355-3773). YOU MUST DO BOTH!

Current Solar and Energy Conservation Courses

Find solar classes to fit your needs at the PG&E energy center.

San Francisco Solar Map

See solar sprout all over San Francisco -- this map logs all solar installations in the area.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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