Cities go big with solar financing
Seeds of a program started in two California cities are taking root across the country, as cities, counties and states look for ways to encourage residents to anchor solar installations to their home rooftops.
Berkeley and Palm Desert, Calif., have both implemented a model in which homeowners pay for solar installations through an assessment on their property tax bills. Meanwhile, a host of California cities, including San Francisco and San Diego, are working on programs of their own.
In California, such programs were made possible by a 2008 bill allowing cities to develop financing mechanisms for renewable projects, to be repaid through property taxes.
“California really opened the flood gates,” says Jason Coughlin, a project manager with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “Real quickly we’re seeing it move across the country.”
Berkeley’s program, called Berkeley FIRST, is still in its pilot phase, with about 40 participants and plans in the works for a second round.
Sungevity, a Berkeley-based solar company, installed the first project through the program, which has sparked a lot of interest in residential solar, says company vice president JP Ross.