Go Solar, California! Newsletter - May 2010

Solar Toolbox

CSI Handbook



CSI NSHP Affordable Developer Toolkit

CSI Annual Program Assessment

CSI Program Administrators

California Center for Sustainable Energy

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Southern California Edison

California Public Utilities Commission

Go Solar, California! Web site

Greetings ,csi-nl-box-aug

The new CSI-Thermal Program began accepting applications for residential solar water heating systems on May 1, and already customers are receiving rebate checks. Solar water heating technologies provide practical and affordable energy-saving solutions worldwide, with an estimated 30 million households in China and nearly 90 percent of the homes throughout the Mediterranean using solar water heating. How far will sunny California go? Learn more about new CSI rebates for solar water heating at the Go Solar, California! Web site.

In This Issue

Special Announcements
The next CSI Program Forum will be held in San Diego on July 30.
  CPUC announces new number (R.) 10-05-004 for the Distributed Generation/California Solar Initiative proceeding. See details below.

Rebates for Solar Water Heating Now Available with CSI Solar Thermal Program

The statewide efforts to create an incentive program for solar water heating (SWH) paid off this month as the CSI-Thermal Program opened for business in the PG&E, SCE, SoCalGas and SDG&E service territories.

After the successful SWH Pilot Program in the SDG&E territory, administered by the California Center for Sustainable Energy from 2007 to 2009, California joins 26 other states with SWH incentive programs. The new program rolled out with rebates for residents and is set to start taking applications for commercial and multifamily installations July 1.

The initial maximum residential rebate for those with natural gas water heaters is $1,875 (electric water heaters get a maximum rebate of $1,273). That’s about 20 percent of the cost of a residential system. Homeowners can also add the 30 percent federal tax credit if certified equipment is installed. Finally, with a new SWH system supplying 70 to 80 percent of water heating costs, savings begin on day one.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved creating CSI-Thermal in January 2010, allocating $350.8 million to promote the adoption of SWH through rebates, industry training and marketing campaigns. While much of the funding (60%) is designated for nonresidential and multifamily housing SWH, there is still ample incentive money to give a homeowner good reason to take note.

Incentive levels, technical requirements and other program details can be found in the CSI-Thermal Program Handbook. For application information, please visit www.csithermal.com or your local utility Web site. Prior to applying for incentives, contractors and self-installers must attend one of the workshops available in each service territory. Workshops available through June 23 are listed below.

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PG&E Opens Solar Water Heating Training at Diablo Valley College

As part of the CSI Solar Thermal Program’s market facilitation strategy, PG&E is now accepting applications through its PowerPathway Program for an upcoming solar water heating training that offers a combined curriculum of photovoltaic (PV) system installation and residential water heating plumbing at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif.

This training is designed to help contractors gain the necessary knowledge and skills required to install systems that qualify for the CSI-Thermal program for residential customers. While the training is open to all applicants with a valid California Contractors License A, B, C-4, C36 or C46, it is strongly suggested that applicants have previous PV system installation or plumbing experience.

Online applications will be accepted through June 1 for summer enrollment. Classes begin June 11 and run through June 26. If interested, apply online at www.pge.com/powerpathway under Bridge Programs. Please note that space is limited.

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Incentive Step Change Updates for PG&E's CSI Team

Over the last two months, PG&E's CSI team received more than 2,800 reservation requests totaling more than 16 MW, triggering PG&E's move toward Step 7 for residential projects. PG&E officially moved into Step 7 ($0.65/W) on April 2, upon receiving enough CSI applications to account for the residential Step 6 MW allotment.

Because PG&E received applications totaling more kW than was available on April 2, PG&E held a lottery to determine the applications to receive Step 6 funding. Applications not chosen via the lottery, and all subsequently received applications, have been receiving Step 7 funding.

On the nonresidential side, as PG&E is still working through applications to determine the exact cut-off date for these projects, PG&E will provide an update once all applications have been processed. As always, PG&E would like to remind customers that a particular project's incentive level is determined upon reservation confirmation.

Visit the PowerClerk Web site to check the status of an application.

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Solar Rebates at Step 7 in San Diego

As of May 19, CCSE has officially moved into Step 7 for nonresidential projects. The incentive rate for performance-based incentive (PBI) projects is $0.09/kWh for commercial applicants and $0.19/kWh for nonprofit and government entities. The incentive rate for expected performance-based buydown (EPBB) projects is $0.65/watt for commercial and $1.40/watt for nonprofits and governments.

With this move in the nonresidential sector, CCSE is now processing applications for all sectors at Step 7. For an up-to-date status on the current incentive level of any utility territory please visit the Trigger Tracker.

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SCE Nonresidential Moves to Step 6

As of May 21, Southern California Edison (SCE) has officially dropped into Step 6 for nonresidential solar projects, with PBI incentive levels now at $0.15/kWh for commercial applicants and $0.26/kWh for government and nonprofit organizations.

Meanwhile, SCE has received enough applications to account for its residential megawatt (MW) allotment. As of May 20, SCE has just 3.95 MW remaining in residential Step 4, with 5.95 MW under review. Once SCE moves into residential Step 5, the incentive will drop from the current $1.90/watt to $1.55/watt.

Typically, Program Administrators face a significant increase in the number of applications as step changes approach. Please keep in mind that applications are processed in the order received. Because no one knows when step changes will occur, you may want to monitor the Trigger Tracker. Visit the PowerClerk Web site to check the status of an application.

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Trigger Tracker Snapshot


The California Solar Initiative Trigger Tracker provides an indication of when the CSI incentive levels are expected to drop by showing the reservation and review status of all incentive classes. This snapshot compares the megawatts remaining in each step with the megawatts under review, so that users can estimate how close the incentives are to declining. When there are more megawatts under review than remaining in the step, it is probable that any new applications will be at the next (i.e. lower) incentive step level.
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CPUC Opens New Rulemaking for Distributed Generation/CSI Program

On May 13, 2010, the CPUC closed the former rulemaking for the DG/CSI Program (R.08-03-008) and issued a new Order Instituting Rulemaking (R.)10-05-004, under which the Commission will continue efforts pertaining to the CSI and Distributed Generation programs. This is a routine procedural formality, and the text of Rulemaking 10-05-006 is available online. A notice of availability has been mailed to all persons on the service list, and the service list from the prior rulemaking has already been transferred in its entirety to form the new rulemaking service list. If you would like to be added to the service list for the DG/CSI proceeding, R. 10-05-004, please see the instructions on the CPUC Web site.

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Soft Cap Instituted to Combat High System Costs

Recently, the CSI Program Administrators (PAs) have seen numerous solar projects being installed for high dollar amounts that do not reflect the current average installed dollar per watt. In order to combat this trend, the PAs agreed to place a soft cap on the installed cost of solar. Projects cannot exceed two standard deviations above the average cost per watt, or $14.70/watt, whichever is less. The current average system cost of PV systems ranges from $8.10 to $9.33 per CEC-AC watt, fully installed. As of March 2010, the defined reasonable limit was $14.70 CEC-AC watt, but this value changes as costs decrease. The current limit is available online.

Upon analysis of residential projects, the majority of the outliers are associated with projects under 2 kW. While this relationship is anticipated with economies of scale, namely the smaller the system size the higher the per watt dollar amount, isolating these smaller systems shows an unnecessarily high installed cost.

The soft cap instituted by the PAs attempts to alleviate this issue and protect homeowners from highly inflated installed costs, especially for the smaller-sized systems. A project may exceed the cost limit only if it can be demonstrated to the PA through appropriate documentation that the particular project requires a special configuration that will drive project costs above the limit.

With installed costs representing the biggest hurdle to installing PV, the intent of the CSI program is to drive down costs over time. The soft cap represents one more control to help institute honest prices in the market and create a strong and sustainable future for the PV industry.

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SEPA: California Utilities Top Nation in Solar

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) have retained their No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the nation, respectively, in the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) just-released third annual Utility Solar Rankings, which ranks U.S. electric utilities based on their solar megawatts and watts-per-customer.

PG&E’s 85 MW installed in 2009 edged out SCE’s 74 MW, which itself experienced an unprecedented 131 percent growth over the previous year’s total, SEPA noted. Five of the top 10 utilities are from California, with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) dropping to No. 5 in 2009 (from No. 3 in 2008), and Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power filling out the list at Nos. 9 and 10.

In SEPA’s cumulative solar megawatts category, SCE and PG&E retained their No. 1 and 2 spots with SDG&E retaining its No. 4 ranking. In the cumulative solar watts-per-customer category, SCE took over the top spot in the nation while PG&E came in at No. 8 and SDG&E at No. 9.

The full report is available online.

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Guard Against Rooftop Robberies with Simple Steps

Solar panels have become the theft du jour in California with rising reports of rooftop robberies from homes and commercial buildings to public schools and wineries.

There are few hard-and-fast statistics about solar panel thefts, mostly anecdotal reports from around the country, but all indications are that California leads the nation. With individual solar panels costing $1,000 and up, a black market for stolen panels has developed in the U.S. and Mexico and spread onto the Internet at popular online shopping sites. A couple of guys with a pickup truck can haul away a load of solar panels fairly quickly if the panels are not well secured.

Many homeowners’ insurance policies will cover solar theft, but consumers need to check the fine print. Even if they are covered, consider the following measures to protect solar panels and your investment.
• Make a diagram of the panels with their corresponding serial numbers, so you can identify stolen property
• Use one-way screws, locking bolts or adhesive sealers; they slow down thieves
• Install an alarm system, either sound- and light-generating or silently monitored
• Install nighttime security lights, particularly motion-trigger lights that illuminate panels
• Block access to the roof or ground areas where panels are located
• Laser etch or engrave identifying numbers on panels (manufacturer IDs can be removed)
• If you suspect anything, call the authorities – don’t confront thieves

The principles of neighborhood watch also work pretty well – note any suspicious activities and take down license numbers of the vehicles; warn your neighbors and employees to do the same. Unfortunately, many solar panel robberies occur in remote areas away from neighborhoods.

While solar panels have become a hot target for thieves, basic deterrence methods can prevent a costly loss.

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New Solar Homes Partnership Offers Training Workshops

The California Energy Commission will be conducting training workshops on the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) this June. The NSHP is the California Solar Initiative’s counterpart that provides incentives for the installation of PV systems on new homes built in California’s investor-owned electric service territories. This is a great opportunity for solar retailers and installers, builders/developers, HERS raters and energy consultants to learn more about the NSHP, the application process and the online application tool.

Trainings will be held:
1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010, and Thursday, June 24, 2010
California Energy Commission, 1516 Ninth St., Sacramento, Calif.

Please RSVP to the Renewable Energy Office by e-mail, or click here for more information.

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GRID Alternatives’ Solarthon Events to Install SASH-funded Projects

Nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives, program managers for CSI’s Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program, will host Solarthon events at four California locations this year.

The Solarthons are solar block parties where teams of volunteers, job trainees and individual and corporate work crews install solar for several low-income families in one neighborhood, all in one day. All of the proposed projects qualify for SASH program funding.

The first Solarthon will be held in Piru on June 12, followed by events in West Oakland, Fresno and San Diego this summer and fall. If you’d like to participate in Solarthon or would like more information on the SASH program, visit GRID Alternative’s Web site or call (510) 652-4730.

In addition to providing low-income homeowners with reduced electricity bills, the SASH program benefits the communities it serves by leveraging local green-job training and workforce development programs to assist with installing solar systems.

Save the dates for Solarthon:
Greater Los Angeles – Saturday, June 12, Piru
Bay Area – Saturday, July 31, West Oakland
Central Valley – Saturday, October 2, Fresno
San Diego County – Saturday, October 30, San Diego

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SolarTech Summit Seen as Success

SolarTech's 2010 Solar Leadership Summit was a definite success, with a diverse group of professional viewpoints converging to create even more momentum for California's key solar policy initiatives. Presentations from the two-day event, plus details of the Summit's "Solar Permitting Challenge," are now available on the SolarTech Web site.

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Grid Alternatives Wins James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award

Congratulations to Tim Sears and Erica Mackie of Grid Alternatives who received the 2010 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award that comes with $125,000 plus additional resources for sharing their innovative approaches to expanding solar to low-income communities.

GRID Alternatives is the statewide manager for CSI’s Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program. The first program of its kind in the nation, SASH greatly increases the number of disadvantaged Californians who can benefit from renewable energy.

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Pauma Valley Farm Holds Solar Open House

An open house for San Diego County farmers and other agricultural business operators interested in adopting solar electric was held at Lyall Farms, an orange grove in Pauma Valley, Calif., on May 12. Hosted by Western Solar of Poway, Calif., the event featured tours of the farm’s 106-kW ground-mounted solar system and information about the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program grants for renewable energy systems.

The incentive program covers up to 25 percent of the total cost of a renewable system to qualified farmers who submit grant applications. This grant, in addition to the federal tax incentive and the California Solar Initiative incentive, offers the potential to significantly reduce the total cost of a solar system by more than 60 percent. The sponsor of the event, Western Solar, gave a detailed analysis of the financial savings that potential agricultural customers could expect to gain from the application of these different incentives.

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Upcoming Workshops and Trainings by Program Territory
csi-nl-box-sept Free Statewide Workshops by the California Solar Initiative
CSI Program Administrators sponsor free, ongoing workshops for solar customers and installers on a variety of topics.

Workshops in PG&E Service Territory

Workshops in SCE Service Territory

Workshops in SDG&E Service Territory by the California Center for Sustainable Energy



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Call for Photos of CSI-Funded Solar Systems

Calling all installers and solar system owners! This is a great opportunity to showcase your CSI-funded solar projects. The California Solar Initiative Program seeks photos of CSI-funded solar systems for use in future newsletters or other CSI-related publicity. Photos can include completed solar PV systems, shots of installations in progress or solar water heating installations.

Please provide the following when submitting your solar PV system, solar water heating system or installation photos.

  • Name of photographer
  • Name of installer, seller and/or system owner
  • System size and location
  • Date project was installed
  • Full permission to use photo in CSI-related publicity

Submit your CSI-funded solar system photos here.

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CCSE | PG&E | SCE | © 2010 California Solar Initiative


The CSI program is funded by California investor-owned utility customers and administered by Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the California Center for Sustainable Energy under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.

California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, California 94102