Sunday, May 15, 2011

Go Solar – A Win-Win Business Approach

Back in 2007, the city of San Francisco begun a carefully designed incentive program called GoSolarSF, which is a great example that could be followed by other cities and maybe YOU, my dear reader, can do something about this.

Thanks to Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors, this program has created full-time jobs for local youth, put solar on low-income housing, built clean distributed energy, and lowered the city's greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative motivated 20 solar companies to open offices in San Francisco.

The GoSolarSF program has a $5 million annual budget to pay an incentive that covers a percentage of the cost for residents, nonprofits, and commercial buildings who want to go solar. A third of the program funds solar installations on low-income housing. GoSolarSF is paid for by revenue from the SFPUC's Hetch Hetchy sale of electricity. (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.)

The incentive is only available to GoSolarSF certified solar installers, nonprofits such as Grid Alternatives, and small San Francisco solar contractors with three or fewer employees. Certified solar installers must hire local youth through TrainGreenSF or other participating organizations, who work at least 50 percent on GoSolarSF funded solar installations, nearly full time, with good pay. Luminalt has hired more than half of its installation team through the program, Asian Neighborhood Design, Young Community Developers and the San Francisco Conservation Corps.

Since its launch, the program has increased the number of solar-powered buildings from 500 to 2,385 and created hundreds of jobs. The city's solar market has increased while costs to install solar have dropped. Moreover, a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that California homes sell faster with solar, and the solar cost is recouped on the sale. Even with San Francisco fog, solar installations significantly reduce electricity bills for both homes and businesses.

This is a summary of an article written by co-founder and CEO of Luminalt Jeanine Cotter, and director of external relations for Suntech America Polly Shaw.

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