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California on track to 3 GW of solar by 2016

Environment California Research & Policy Center says California’s 'Million Solar Roofs Initiative' is on track to meet its goal of installing 3 GW of solar capacity by 2016.

By Kari Williamson

California has recently reached the first gigawatt milestone in rooftop solar installation.

“California can become the Saudi Arabia of the sun if it continues to get behind big, successful solar programmes,” says Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California Research & Policy Center and co-author of the report, Building a Brighter Future: California’s Progress Toward a Million Solar Roofs.

“All signs point to a bright future for solar power in California, meaning cleaner air, cleaner energy, and more jobs.”

California Public Utilities Commission President Michael R. Peevey, adds: “Of the total 1000 MW of rooftop solar photovoltaic installed statewide, a record 205 MW was installed in 2011 alone. At that pace, the state is on track to meet its goal of 3000 MW of rooftop solar by 2016.”

Key findings:

  • Even in a weak economy, California’s solar market has been expanding exponentially by about 40% per year. If the market continues growing at a rate of 25% per year, the state will achieve the 3 GW goal by the end of 2016;
  • Five years in, the Million Solar Roofs Initiative is one-quarter of the way toward its goal of installing 3 GW of distributed solar energy systems by the end of 2016 – putting the programme on a pace to meet the overall goal on schedule. Since the first solar panels under the Million Solar Roofs Initiative were connected to the grid in 2007, California has installed nearly 800 MW of solar photovoltaic power;
  • California is home to about 20% of all solar power companies in the United States, with more than 3500 firms employing more than 25,000 people. The industry has roughly doubled in size since 2007;
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that the state could host more than 80 GW of rooftop solar capacity – which could generate more than a third as much electricity as California uses in a year; and
  • Other countries are demonstrating that it is possible to rapidly expand the solar market and achieve ambitious goals. Germany, for example, has already reached 17 GW of solar capacity – nearly 17 times California’s current total – through consistent and strong public policy support.

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Green building  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity