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San Diego leads L.A., San Francisco in rooftop solar power

State's solar market has more than doubled in three years, a study finds.

July 16, 2009|Margot Roosevelt

It is far from the "million solar roofs" that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger touted, but the number of rooftop solar installations in California has grown from an estimated 500 a decade ago to nearly 50,000 today. And in the last three years, the Golden State's solar market has more than doubled.

With city politicians fiercely competing for eco-boasting rights, a new report from the advocacy group Environment California recently unveiled which state municipalities are making the most progress in solar installation.

San Diego, with 2,262 solar roofs, beat Los Angeles and San Francisco, both of which claim to be the greenest city in America.

But when it comes to per capita installations, little Nevada City, Calif., topped the list, with nearly 1 in 5 households hosting a solar system.

City of Industry, outside Los Angeles, had the most capacity per capita, with 1.5 kilowatts installed per person.

The bad news: Solar power still accounts for less than 1% of energy nationwide.

And even in solar-friendly California, it is hampered by the lack of a robust feed-in tariff, such as the one in Germany, which would allow homeowners who install extra capacity to sell their electricity back to utilities at a favorable rate.

AB 920, a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) to do just that, is fiercely opposed by utilities and has so far failed to garner enough support for passage -- not to mention backing by Schwarzenegger.

The Vote Solar Initiative, a San Francisco group, has been lobbying for a bill to lift a cap on the funds available to consumers to reduce their bills by selling power back to utilities -- a program known as net metering, which allows solar-rooftop customers to zero out their bills.

The legislation has passed the Assembly and is awaiting action in the state Senate.

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margot.roosevelt@latimes.com

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