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Berkeley Gets Energized with Solar Power Plan

Berkeley Gets Energized with Solar Power Plan

Berkeley plans on having 25 percent of its homes and buildings powered by solar within ten years.

November 2, 2007 —

The hallowed name of Berkeley, California, evokes a 50-year-long litany of political, social and environmentally conscious praises. Now, the hilled little city is breaking ground again, or breaking sun again, in adopting a program to energize its rooftop solar power systems. A typical household solar power array costs $15,000 to $30,000 and takes as much as 10 years to pay off—even with California’s generous California Solar Initiative rebate program. California’s goal is to have 1 million solar units sprouting from rooftops by 2017, and they are a ways from that touch down.

Innovative Berkeley came up with a way to stimulate solar power and solar water heating by simply paying in full for the solar units for a home owner or building owner. The owners then have twenty years to pay the city back through an assessment on their property tax. Berkeley provides a list of approved solar array installers the owners choose from. Cisco DeVries, chief of staff for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, said Berkeley intends to be 25 percent solar powered over the next decade. Jumping in to help the small city is the federal government and PG&E, California’s largest utility.

The economics of the program for homeowners or building owners are attractive. The value of a solar system immediately adds on to the appraised value of the home—from $13,000 and up. If you sell your home or building, the solar unit(s) stay with the home, as does the property tax assessment. The obligation the owners see each year is their annual property tax bill with the additional charge on it, amortized over twenty years. For a $15,000 unit, that would be an average of a $1,300 property tax increase. The solar power, though, once installed, is already saving the owner money.

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