California Transitions to Performance Incentives; Chico Dedicates Solar Plant

November 10, 2006

California has reorganized its solar photovoltaic incentives under the California Solar Initiative to base payments on electricity production instead of installed capacities. The California Energy Commission (CEC) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made the announcement on a new Web site they launched this week called Go Solar California!.

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The City of Chico, California, dedicated this solar PV array on October 30; it is the largest tracking solar power plant in the world.
Credit: City of Chico, California.

Beginning in January 2007, solar customers can only receive a rebate if they obtain electricity from one of the state's investor-owned utilities. If the solar systems have rated capacities of less than 100 kilowatts (kW), participating solar customers will receive a one-time up-front payment based on calculations of expected system output. If the system size is larger than 100 kW, they will receive incentives based on actual energy produced during five years. These incentives are called performance based incentives, and will decrease over time.

Go Solar California, which was formerly known as the Golden State's Million Solar Roofs Program, developed out of Senate Bill 1, which was adopted by the California Legislature in August 2006. For background, see the August 23 news story published by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Under the program, utilities also inspect solar systems from time to time to make sure that customers are maintaining them and they are operating properly. For details, see the Go Solar California November 9 press release (PDF 189 KB).

Chico Inaugurates Largest Solar Tracking System

A week earlier, the City of Chico, California, hosted a group of state and local dignitaries at the groundbreaking of its new solar PV array. Rated at 1.1 megawatts, the array consists of 5,824 solar modules spread across 5 acres next to the city's Water Pollution Control Plant. The modules have two-dimensional trackers that align the PV modules with the sun as it moves across the sky during the day. According to the city, it is the largest solar tracking array in the world. It is also the largest municipally owned and operated solar arrays in California.

At the dedication ceremony, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Company Senior Vice President Helen Burt presented Chico Mayor Scott Gruendl with a check in the amount of $3.8 million. The check is the largest solar rebate PG&E has disbursed through the California Million Solar Roofs Program. PG&E has paid more than $190 million in incentives for on-site generation through this program. Then Gruendl flipped the system’s ceremonial switch. Gruendl said, “We are delighted to not only help the environment, but make history with this beautiful facility.” For details about the ceremony, see the City of Chico, California's October 27 press release (PDF 39 KB).