Keeping the lights on: An ongoing report of local power conditions
Uploaded: Tuesday, February 20, 2001 2 p.m.

The rush to solar in 2001

The great Solar Rush of 2001 may be underway.

There were 150 reservations for solar-system rebates filed with the California Department of Energy in January 2001.

That number equals the total number of rebate requests filed between the creation of the state rebate program in 1997 and December 2000, according to Kevin Mackamul, manager of system engineering for Siemens Solar Industries, a leading supplier of solar systems and components.

"Calling it a solar rush is an understatement," he said during a break in helping install the Palo Alto Hardware Store system.

While the rush may still be in the trickle stage, he said converting 100,000 homes to solar power in the next few years is well within reasonable expectations, given that energy rates are likely to remain high or go much higher while solar the costs of solar systems have dropped dramatically.

If each of the 100,000 homes were to put in just a 1-kilowatt system that would produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity, or 1 gigawatt, "a huge amount of power," Mackamul said. At present prices, the pre-rebate cost would be about $8,000 per home, or below $5,000 after rebates, he said. The most typical home installation is 2 kilowatts.

The Palo Alto Hardware installation will produce 30 kilowatts.

The new state initiative for additional power, announced by Governor Gray Davis last week, includes "distributed generation"--which includes local solar power systems--and could further spur the rush to solar.


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