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California Solar Incentives, Rebates, and Credits

In 2007 the state of California enacted the California Solar Initiative (CSI; http://www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov/) to create 3,000 megawatts of new solar power in the state by the end of 2017. Four years into the program information on the web is still pretty confusing. The General Market Program is the program that most people will apply for unless you are a low-income homeowner or solarizing a multifamily home. Here is what to know:

  • This is a cash rebate program for those who install solar panelling on their home or business.
  •  Current rebates range from $1.10 to $1.80 per AC watt (keep in mind that most homes require a 3-6 kilowatt system to power their home completely).
  • To qualify you must own a home or business and receive power from Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, or San Diego Gas and Electric (if you live in an area where your power is provided through a municipal utility, you are eligible as well, there are just a few extra steps).
  • You will start by completing an energy audit on your home to determine if it makes sense for you to install PV panels (e.g., do you get enough sunlight for solar to be cost effective, do you have enough rooftop to be cost effective, etc.). The audit will be completed by your local utility.
  • Next you will find a solar installer in your area. Always get a couple of estimates and find someone who you are comfortable with. The contractor will provide all of the necessary rebate paperwork.
  • Once installed, you may claim your rebate. Most rebate checks are received within 60 days unless you have a larger than average system.
  • Don't forget the federal tax rebate incentive as well!!! Fill out an IRS 5695. Homeowners can claim 30% of the cost of their install and businesses can claim 10%.

The California Solar Initiative also supplies rebate incentives for installing Solar Hot Water Heaters (this is the CSI Thermal Program), for low-income homeowners through the Single-family Affordable Solar Home Program (SASH), and low income apartment owners through the Multifamily Solar Home Program (MASH). Each program has requirements that differ slightly from those outlined above.

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