California and Arizona Battling for PV Supremacy

July 06, 2011 by Jeff Shepard

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued its California Solar Initiative (CSI) Annual Program Assessment, which shows that the rate at which Californians are installing rooftop solar energy systems to meet their electric demand is growing at a rapid pace.

The report shows that the increasing rate of new solar installations and cumulative installed capacity provide evidence that California is well along the path of achieving the goals set forth by Senate Bill 1 in 2006, the legislation that authorized the CSI program.

Californians installed 194MW of new solar electric generating equipment in 2010 – more new distributed solar generating capacity than in any other year in the state’s history, and an increase of 47 percent over the capacity installed in 2009. This grid-tied solar capacity provides clean, fossil-free power directly to 19,877 homes, businesses, non-profits, and government agencies statewide.

The total installed solar capacity in California is 924 MW at 94,891 individual sites through the first quarter of 2011. This capacity has been installed through a variety of state and local incentive programs dating back to the 1990s. Of the 924 total MW installed, 746 MW were installed at 77,461 customer sites in the service territories of the state’s investor-owned utilities.

In January 2007, California began an unprecedented $3.3 billion effort to install 3,000 MW of new solar over the next decade and transform the market for solar energy by reducing the cost of solar generating equipment. The CPUC portion of the solar effort is known as the CSI program. The CSI portion, the country’s largest solar program, has a $2.2 billion budget and a goal of 1,940 MW of solar capacity by the end of 2016.

Fueled by aggressive, new business incentives, Arizona is claiming that it is quickly becoming the premier location for renewable energy companies. The Arizona Commerce Authority notes that Arizona is home to more than 100 significant solar energy businesses, including the world’s two largest solar companies, First Solar and Suntech.

"Arizona has been an ideal location for First Solar to grow its business, including our new factory under construction in Mesa that will add 600 associates to our local workforce," said Maja Wessels, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for Tempe-based First Solar. "Arizona offers an attractive business climate, a talented workforce and boundless potential for clean solar energy."

In recent months, Arizona has experienced significant growth in the renewable energy marketplace. Companies are taking advantage of tax incentives, a pro-business climate, a specialized workforce and more sunny days than any other state in the country.

"Arizona’s aggressive new focus on solar and renewable energy following the passage of the Arizona Competitiveness Package will significantly enhance economic development opportunities and encourage business relocation for companies that are leading the way in this fast-paced, innovative industry," said Governor Jan Brewer. "The ACA is spreading the word that Arizona is the place to be for cutting-edge solar technology."

Incentives for renewable energy companies in Arizona include: up to 10% of capital investments as a refundable income tax credit, income tax credits up to $9,000 for each quality new job, up to $1.5 million in reimbursable grants to train employees, up to 34% R&D tax credit, and significant business tax reductions including lowering the state income tax from 6.97% to 4.9%.

More news and information regarding the latest developments in Smart Grid electronics can be found at Darnell’s SmartGridElectronics.Net.