There are many programs and resources to help individuals and businesses go solar. However, it is important to always make energy efficiency improvements first. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce electricity bills and improve comfort. The less energy a house uses, the smaller and less expensive the solar equipment required.
Why Go Solar ?
- Reduce or eliminate your monthly electricity bill
- Potentially increases your property value
- Proven, mature technology
- Variety of financing options
- Reduce your carbon emissions
- Protection from future electricity price fluctuations
- Low maintenance once installed
- SmartSolar is a free solar education and advising program for Bay Area residents and businesses run by Community Energy Services Corporation (CESC), a non-profit organization. SmartSolar offers independent, site-specific analysis of a property’s potential for solar opportunities and energy efficiency measures. It helps clients understand solar and feel confident about their future investment. Visit the EnergySage website, an online solar marketplace where you can receive bids from contractors and compare quotes.
- PG&E's Solar Calculator helps you estimate the costs of installing solar and the bill savings a solar PV system would generate.
- MCE electricity customers can learn about MCE's net energy metering program and rates for rooftop solar.
- Google Project Sunroof uses Google Earth Mapping, combined with solar orientation, roof segment angles, weather conditions, and more to give you a quick assessment of whether solar is a smart investment for your household, business, or municipality
Permits & Building Code Requirements
Visit the Building Division's webpage for a checklist of solar requirements for a permit:
- Single-Family: Submittal Requirements for Photovoltaic Array Systems or Alternative Energy Systems (IB-025)
- Multi-Family Residential and Commercial: Submittal Requirements for Photovoltaic Array Systems or Alternative Energy Systems (IB-025)
- The total cost for a rooftop solar PV system will be based on several factors, such as the size of the system, labor, permit fees, and more. In 2015, the City Council adopted an ordinance to allow for an expedited, streamlined solar permitting process that complies with the Solar Rights Act and AB 2188 (Chapter 521, Statutes 2014) to achieve timely and cost-effective installations of small residential rooftop solar energy systems.
Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit
In December 2016, Congress approved extending the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which currently provides a 30% federal tax credit for solar systems installed on residential and commercial properties. This tax credit was set to expire at the end of 2016, but is now extended through the end of 2019, helping to keep solar affordable for homeowners and businesses here in Walnut Creek. After 2019, the tax credits have different expiration dates and values by year for residential and commercial projects. For more information about tax credits, see the Financing page.
New Net Energy Metering Policy
On January 28, 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruled in favor of extending California’s net energy metering (NEM) program. Net energy metering allows customers with on-site renewable energy generation, like solar, to receive a financial credit for excess power generated by their systems.
For the most part, the decision is seen as largely preserving many of the benefits of NEM for future solar customers. New solar customers will need to pay a one-time interconnection fee ranging from $75 and $150, and some additional charges. Utilities would place new NEM customers on time-of-use rates, which rise during periods of high electricity demand. The new NEM program will take effect for new solar customers after the utilities reach certain participation caps, or July 1, 2017, whichever occurs first. Existing solar owners are exempted from all the NEM changes for 20 years from when they installed their systems and connected to the grid. For more information, visit PG&E's website.
Renewable energy can include solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, or geothermal power, and can help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under California's Renewable Portfolio Standard, investor owned electricity and natural gas utilities, like PG&E, are required to have 33% of their energy mix come from renewables by the end of 2020.
- California Solar Statistics is the official public reporting site of the California Solar Initiative (CSI), presented by the CSI Program Administrators and the CPUC. You can view and download data, find an active solar contractor, and search for specific solar projects.
- The Open PV Project is an initiative between the government, industry, and the public to compile a comprehensive database of PV installation data for the nation. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) jump started the database with data from large utilities, state incentive programs, and other organizations.