Hey, Yo, Jersey: California Hits 1 GW In Onsite Solar

New Jersey made a little news last month when an update of U.S. solar PV capacity had the Garden State topping California with 174 megawatts newly installed in the first quarter, compared to 148 MW in the land of perpetual sunshine.

As if in answer to that, California on Tuesday proclaimed that an annual assessment of the California Solar Initiative showed that in 2011 the state “reached a major milestone by becoming the first state in the nation to install more than 1 gigawatt (1,000 MW) of customer-generated solar energy; a record 311 MW were installed in the investor-owned utility territories in 2011 alone.”

california solar initiative

image via California Public Utilities Commission

In fact, customer-generated solar capacity totaled 1,061 MW at 104,274 sites in the areas served by Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas &Electric.

The vast majority of the solar capacity in the state – all but 67 MW – is enrolled in the state’s Net Energy Meeting tariffs, allowing customers to gain credit for excess energy they feed into the grid.

“California’s solar success is unmatched in the nation,” California Public Utilities Commission President Michael R. Peevey said in a statement. “In the first quarter of 2012, there has already been 97 megawatts of solar installed. This means that the CSI Program is on track to reach 1,000 megawatts in installations by the end of the year.”

The CPUC calls the California Solar Initiative the country’s largest solar program, with a $2.4 billion budget – funded by ratepayers — and a goal to install 1,940 MW of solar capacity by the end of 2016. Based on the the annual rate of new solar installations and the cumulative installed capacity, the state believes it will hit the goals set out in 2006 by Senate Bill 1, the legislation that authorized the CSI program. Outside of the CSI, the state is spending nearly a billion dollars more to get another 1,100 MW installed.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.