Archive for the ‘Photovoltaic News’ Category

Santa Monica adopts Zero Net Energy Code for all new single family construction

Monday, June 19th, 2017

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On May 1, 2017 Santa Monica became the first city to adopt zero-net energy (ZNE) requirements.  The State of California is planning to implement such a code state-wide but this will not be implemented until the 2020 T-24 code cycle so Santa Monica is out in front with net-zero.

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The basic premise of ZNE requires projects to generate enough of their own energy from renewable energy sources (solar PV for example), to equal what they use from the utility grid over the course of a year.  For now this requirement only applies to new residential projects, not additions or alterations.

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However the ZNE requirement is parallel to the city’s Energy Reach Code which requires all new low-rise residential projects to be designed to use 15% less energy than the allowable energy budget established by the 2016 California Energy Code (Title-24).  This presents some challenges as projects that may comply with the reach code (15% better than T-24) may not comply as a ZNE project.  Conversely projects that can demonstrate ZNE compliance may still fall short of the 15% better than T-24 energy use.  One does not always equal the other.

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This new code update became effective May 1, 2017.  This emphasizes the importance of getting your Title-24 Energy Consultant involved in your project early in the design process as most projects will struggle to comply and will involve a lot of back and forth as different design and energy saving strategies are modeled, tested and revised to get the project over the finish line cost-effectively.

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Link to news release

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Link to detailed ZNE and Reach Code explanation

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New webinar: “The New 2013 Title-24 Residential Energy Code”

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

“That was one of the best webinars I’ve ever attended.  Clear, concise, linear, well moderated, and presented.  You’ve got my recommendation if you ever need it.”

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“I just wanted to let you know that I thought the presentation yesterday was excellent!  You presented the material in an engaging fashion, and the information was easy to comprehend.”

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“Your webinar was extremely well done.  Please put me on your mailing list for future events.  I have recommended to my GC and his electrician that they should attend next month.”

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The new 2013 Title-24 Building Efficiency Standards take effect January 1, 2014.  These changes will have a significant impact on building design and construction.  If you’ve been worrying about the new Title-24 energy code this is the webinar you’ve been waiting for!

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The new 2013 Title-24 Energy Code is roughly 20-25% more restrictive than the current 2008 version.

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New forms, new mandatory requirements, and now for the first time solar photovoltaic panels can be used as credits in the compliance analysis.

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This new webinar class will address the big questions from architects, builders, developers, and NSHP applicants:

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How can we cost-effectively comply with the new Title-24 requirements?

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What forms are we responsible for?

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What HERS third party inspections are required and what forms/paperwork are required for these inspections?

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This class will examine new Title-24 compliance strategies and options which can take your project beyond the minimum Title-24 code requirements by 15%, 35% and more for Reach Codes such as LEED and the NSHP.

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Feedback from those who have attended our webinars

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Webinar date:

Monday,  January 20, 2013

9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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Who should attend:

Architects, designers, contractors, LEED AP’s

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Cost:  Free


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Cheap Chinese Panels Spark Solar Power Trade War

Thursday, January 19th, 2012
Contractors with SunEdison install more than 1,000 Chinese-made solar panels on top of a Kohl's Department Store in Hamilton Township, N.J., in 2010. Energy generated by the solar system will cut the store's usage, on average, by 25 to 30 percent.

January 19, 2012

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There’s a solar trade war going on inside the U.S., sparked by an invasion of inexpensive imports from China.

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The U.S. solar industry is divided over these imports: Panel-makers say their business is suffering and want a tariff slapped on the imports. But other parts of the industry say these cheap panels are driving a solar boom in the U.S.

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On the manufacturers’ side, there’s Gordon Brinser. He’s an Oregon native who says the company he runs there, SolarWorld, is not only green, it’s red, white and blue. “The mission that we have is to build products here in America, for America’s community, for America’s energy independence, and really leave the world a better place,” he says.

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Brinser claims China is threatening that vision by flooding the U.S. with cheap solar panels. He claims China subsidizes its solar panel industry to the tune of $30 billion a year, yet uses only a small percentage of the panels it makes. “So obviously,” he says, “these subsidies have gone into the industry, and their full intention is to export and control markets in other countries.”

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Brinser claims the imports contributed to the collapse of some U.S. manufacturers. Three did go out of business in 2010, though the exact cause may or may not be cheap imports. But Brinser has petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission to slap tariffs on imported Chinese panels.

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So far the feds say, yes, American panel-makers have been harmed by Chinese imports. Yet to be determined is whether China is doing anything illegal: for instance, subsidizing panel-makers so they can sell below cost, a practice called “dumping.”

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Brinser acknowledges that if he wins and tariffs are added, Americans will have to pay more for panels. “The prices will have to increase, you know, a little. They will find their new, natural balance in a competitive and legal environment,” he says.

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Higher Prices Could Hurt Installers

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But CASE, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, says higher prices are bad for companies that install solar power. These companies far outnumber panel manufacturers.

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Kevin Lapidus works for CASE and is vice president of SunEdison, which builds and operates solar power systems.

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More About Solar Power In The U.S.

Rows of solar panels at a solar farm in Kings Mountain, N.C.

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Solar Panels Compete With Cheap Natural Gas

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Cheap natural gas due to fracking makes more expensive forms of renewable energy less attractive.

Workers install solar panels at the Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson, Ariz.

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Big Solar Project Moves Forward Without Uncle Sam

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Large-scale plan to install solar panels on military homes doesn’t rely on federal loan guarantees.

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“Fully 52 percent of the U.S. jobs are in the installation business,” he says. “These are U.S. workers who wake up in the morning, put on a tool belt, and they go and build something.” He says manufacturers of solar panels in the U.S. are only about a quarter of the domestic business.

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Lapidus says solar power is just now shaking off its reputation as too pricey for regular people. “We’re finally reducing the price of solar,” he says. “We’re driving down the cost to grow the solar base — installations, jobs, etc. And the SolarWorld trade case will increase the cost of electricity; it will set the industry back by years.”

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He says it could also start an international trade war with China. American solar industries export well over a billion dollars of products to China per year.

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Most Customers Just Want The Best Price

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At Solar Energy Services in Millersville, Md., a single stack of solar panels sits on the floor of a warehouse. Engineer Rick Peters says he got them cheap because the manufacturer folded — they couldn’t compete. He’s run out of Chinese panels for the moment. “Probably about 70 percent of what we install is Chinese panels,” he says.

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Peters points out that some homeowners like to buy American, but most, about 90 percent of his customers, just want the best price. And Chinese panels are about 10 percent cheaper.

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A tariff could double their price, and Peters says that could push everyone’s prices up.

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“I’m very concerned about that,” he says. “I think that it could significantly increase the price, because of the limited number of manufacturers in the U.S. Potentially, they could take advantage of the marketplace.”

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By raising their prices as well? “Absolutely,” says Peters.

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He fears that could have ripple effects for other U.S. manufacturers. He illustrates by cutting open a big cardboard box on the floor of the warehouse. Inside is an inverter, a device that every solar installation needs to convert direct current to the alternating current in your home. It costs about $4,500.

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“This one is made by PV Powered,” he says, “which is a U.S. manufacturer. A lot of the inverters are manufactured in the U.S.” Fewer installations would mean fewer inverters sold.

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Over the next several months, the federal government will decide whether China is playing fair or not.

Los Angeles DWP to relaunch Solar Incentive Program Sept. 1

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Solar panels

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L.A.’s Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved a plan Tuesday to relaunch its Solar Incentive Program, and the Department of Water and Power will resume accepting applications for the program Sept. 1 at 10 a.m. The program was placed on hold April 9 because demand for solar incentives exceeded available funds by a factor of three to one.

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“As we relaunch the Solar Incentive Program in September, it is extremely important that we leverage the incentives to achieve the most solar power and encourage as much participation as possible,” DWP General Manager Ronald O. Nichols said in a statement. “We also want to grow solar at a steady and sustainable pace while being prudent about the cost to all customers who pay for this program through their rates.”

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The DWP has increased the budget for the Solar Incentive Program to $60 million for the current fiscal year. It anticipates adding $60 million to the program annually in 2012 and 2013 as well. The $60 million in rebates over the next three years will be funded with revenue collected from ratepayers’ electric bills.

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For an average four-kilowatt, $32,000 solar power installation, the program previously covered up to 45% of the costs for residential buildings. Through April of this year, the Solar Incentive Program reimbursement rate was $3.25 per watt, or $13,000 for a four-kilowatt system. Starting Sept. 1, the rebate amount will be $2.00 to $2.20 per watt, with the highest rebate amount going to the most efficient systems. A four-kilowatt system with optimum orientation and no shading would be reimbursed $8,800, a less-efficient system, $8,000.

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In a statement, DWP senior assistant general manager Aram Benyamin said, “Now that significant tax incentives are being offered by the federal government, we have an opportunity to reduce our incentive levels to be more in line with market pricing, which should give more customers the opportunity to build solar and increase the amount of solar [photovoltaic projects] that can be built through this program.”

Homeowners who install solar power between now and the end of 2016 can receive a federal tax credit equal to 30% of the system’s cost.

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Many of the area’s top solar providers, including Sungevity, SolarCity, Verengo and SunRun, oppose LADWP’s revamped Solar Incentive Program. They say the reduced incentives would require homeowners who install photovoltaic systems to pay more for electricity than they would without solar panels; the payback period would also increase to as much as 14 years — far longer than other areas in the state. [Updated 8-3-11, 1:10 p.m.: The original version of this post did not include feedback from solar installers.]

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According to Nichols, “In the next few months, we will come back with more leasing options and other proposals for lower-income households.”

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— Susan Carpenter L.A. Times

Photo: Rooftop solar panels. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

California PUC Lifts hold on C.S.I. Solar Incentives

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

The California Public Utilities Commission issued a new Assigned Commissioner Ruling (ACR) on July 29, 2010 lifting a temporary hold on the issuance of confirmed reservations for Performance Based Incentive (PBI) and government/non-profit projects established by a July 9th ACR.

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The July 29th Ruling directs the CSI Program Administrators to resume processing and issuing confirmed reservations for all applications, including those impacted by the temporary postponement and held in queue in the order received, subject to the existing rules and processes of the program.

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The Commission will continue to consider the three modifications proposed in the July 9th Ruling (see below), which are 1) removal of the 8% discount rate embedded in the calculation of performance based incentive (PBI) payments; 2) reduction in the incentive rate offered for government and non-profit applicants; and 3) shifting of $20 million from the program administration budget to the incentive budget.

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If the Commission adopts either of the proposed incentive modifications, it is intended that such changes would apply only on a going forward basis, applicable to new applications seeking incentives after the date of any such decision.

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To read the July 29, 2010 CPUC Ruling canceling the temporary hold on certain application processing, click here.

California’s solar-power feed-in tariff becomes law

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Sunday that will create a European-style above-market tariff, called a feed-in tariff, for small solar-panel generators.

California’s abundant sunshine, relatively high utility rates and solar subsidies have already made the state one of the world’s top solar markets. The proposal seeks to expand the market by requiring California utilities to buy power from solar-panel generators of 1.5-3.0 megawatts in size, at set rates above what the utilities would pay for wholesale power from conventional sources.

Some solar companies said the bill’s pricing scheme would create a feed-in tariff of about 15 to 17 cents a kilowatt-hour, which they said wouldn’t be high enough to spur significant investment. But others said the program would create opportunities for lower-cost projects for which there isn’t currently a market.

Supporters of the legislation, including the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said the bill’s feed-in tariff will be high enough for schools, local governments, farms, warehouses and other low-cost property owners to take advantage of it.

Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., SunPower Corp., Applied Materials Inc., and other companies have pointed to a separate effort at the California Public Utilities Commission to establish a feed-in tariff-type program as more viable.

The CPUC staff has proposed requiring the state’s three large utilities, owned by PG&E Corp., Edison International, and Sempra Energy, to collectively buy 1,000 megawatts of power from solar-panel generators sized between 1 MW and 20 MW over four years through “reverse auctions” in which they would pick the projects with the lowest bids to meet their requirements. The agency is still reviewing proposals for the program and could make a decision sometime next year.

In a letter to the state Senate on Sunday, Governor Schwarzenegger said he was signing the bill because the state “will need to use all of the tools available” to meet its goal of using renewable sources for a third of electricity sold by utilities by 2020.

The CPUC should proceed with its own feed-in tariff program, he said.

California Accelerates its Pursuit of Clean Energy

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

September 30, 2009

California Accelerates its Pursuit of Clean Energy

Photo of two tall metal towers, each topped with a spherical device and surrounded by large rectangular expanses of mirrors. Some equipment is located at the base of each tower.

The nation’s first commercial solar power tower is located in California, in part because of the state’s aggressive renewable energy mandates.
Credit: eSolar

California’s commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency got two major boosts recently. For renewable energy, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order on September 15, requiring the state’s utilities to get a third of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. The state currently has a 20% renewable power requirement by 2010 for investor-owned utilities only, but the executive order extends and increases that mandate, while also expanding it to include public power utilities and other electricity providers. The governor’s directive calls for the California Air Resources Board to adopt new regulations to implement the renewable mandate by July 31, 2010. Three years ago, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill to achieve a 25% cut in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and the new renewable energy requirement will help to meet that goal. See the governor’s press release.

While making a substantial commitment to renewable energy, the state has also launched the largest investment in energy efficiency ever made by a state., On September 24, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a $3.1 billion slate of ratepayer-supported energy efficiency programs for 2010-2012. The effort will be administered by California’s investor-owned utilities, including Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and the Southern California Gas Company. One benefit cited by CPUC is the launching of the nation’s largest home retrofit program. Under the California Statewide Program for Residential Energy Efficiency, the state aims to achieve a 20% energy savings for up to 130,000 homes over a three-year span.

The CPUC will also provide $175 million to encourage the construction of net zero energy homes and commercial buildings. That portion of the funding will help with design assistance, incentives for new buildings that exceed the state’s energy code, and research and demonstration of new energy technologies. In addition, the CPUC program sets aside $260 million in funds for 64 cities, counties, and regional agencies, targeting retrofits of public buildings as well as leading-edge energy efficiency opportunities. See the CPUC press release and the related fact sheet (PDF 30 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

San Diego County wants to help homeowners finance renewable energy

Monday, October 5th, 2009

The County of San Diego will consider potential options to help homeowners finance renewable energy systems and energy efficiency devices.
A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote Sept. 23 directed the county’s Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard to explore the cost, benefits and feasibility of implementing two potential financing programs and to return to the supervisors with a recommendation.
The programs would be voluntary for property owners but would allow projects to be paid over time as additions to property tax assessments.
One option would be for the county to join the statewide California FIRST program. The other would involve the county contracting for a stand-alone program specific to San Diego County. The California FIRST program would have lower set-up and administrative costs while a stand-alone program would allow for greater flexibility.
“Partnership will be the name of the game when it comes down to deciding an eventual program,” said board Chair Dianne Jacob.
Renewable energy devices such as solar energy systems and other energy efficiency improvements such as new windows, roofing and insulation save an energy customer money over time but can be expensive to install. The State of California recently passed Assembly Bill 811, which allows municipalities to create financing programs to enable immediate installation of renewable energy or energy efficiency devices with repayment through property tax bills. While AB 811 did not provide a source of funding for those programs, the California Center for Sustainable Energy has worked with potential partners for external financing.
“The difficulty that we face in implementing this solution is money. It appears that the solution may have arrived,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. “Payment for improvement is spread out over 20 years.”
The long-term repayment through property tax bills also addresses the deterrent that the initial homeowner might not stay in the home long enough to reap the return on investment for the energy-saving systems.
“The benefit of the improvement stays with the property as does the obligation to keep paying the bill,” Slater-Price said.
“The benefitting property serves as a security,” said Terry Clapham of the California Center for Sustainable Energy. “There’s little or no personal credit necessary.”
Personal credit history may affect the interest rate paid, which is expected to range between 7 percent and 10 percent.
The program includes an energy audit for property owners, since in some cases other energy-efficient devices may be more feasible than solar panels.
Clapham noted a survey in which 92 percent of property owners expressed medium, high or very high interest in such a financing program.
“They just need a financial vehicle for them to do it,” he said.
If the County of San Diego joined the California FIRST program, the expected one-time legal, marketing, and technology set-up cost would be $25,000.  The one-time setup cost for a stand-alone program is estimated at $50,000.
California FIRST would allow some customization in the design of a program but involves some standardization in offerings, and local residents would be competing with individuals throughout the state for funding. The size of any bond issuance by an external financing partner along with the number of interested parties would be factors in the availability and timing of the benefits for local participants.
“I’m extremely eager to see which of the programs the staff thinks fits best,” Jacob said.

Highlights of San Diego’s Solar Energy Week Conference Yesterday

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

San Diego’s Solar Energy Week Conference yesterday was well worth the trip down to sunny San Diego.  Held at the Mission Valley Marriott the conference is in its sixth year and attendance was high.

Highlights:

San Diego is leading the country in photovoltaic installations both residential and commercial.

Programs to watch:

P.A.C.E., Property Assessed Clean Energy, which is a bond where the proceeds that help commercial and residential property owners to finance energy efficiency improvements including photovoltaic installations.

AB-920: The California Solar Surplus Act of 2009.  This bill seeks to provide solar system owners to fair market value for the excess solar energy they generate each year.  Currently any excess solar energy generated each year is essentially given away to the utility which can then turn around and sell this energy at the full retail rate.

California Solar Initiative: The CSI incentive level for commercial and residential PV retrofits is currently at Step 5 which sets the incentive payment at $1.55 per watt.  This will shortly move to Step 6 which reduces the incentive payment to $1.10 per watt.

For new construction which use a different program, the New Solar Home Initiative, the incentive level is $2.50 per watt.

www.californiasolarstatistics.ca.gov A great website for statistics on photovoltaic installations in California Search by city, county, demographics.

Solar Energy Week – Sunday, Sept 27 through Saturday, Oct. 3 2009

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Solar Energy Week – Sunday, Sept 27 through Saturday, Oct. 3 2009

Solar Energy Week VideoJoin CCSE for the 5th annual Solar Energy Week, San Diego’s most comprehensive solar energy event and the kick-off event to California’s solar energy month. This week of events puts solar energy in the spotlight by bringing together San Diego residents with solar experts, suppliers and installers to explore the benefits of using sunlight for electricity and water heating.

The festivities kick off with an action-packed Family Solar Day at the beautiful Liberty Station in Point Loma on Sunday, Sept 27. The week continues with an all-day Solar Conference, a Commercial Solar Tour and the 10th annual San Diego Solar Homes Tour.

There are solar energy activities for everyone from families and kids to engineers and policymakers. Go Solar San Diego!