US: California installs over 1 GW of customer-generated solar

04. July 2012 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By:  Becky Beetz

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has said that over one GW of customer-generated solar energy has been installed in the U.S. state to date. The milestone was said to have been reached in 2011.

US solar photovoltaic rooftop system

Predictions are that 3.2 GW will be installed until the end of 2012.

In its 2012 California Solar Initiative (CSI) Annual Program Assessment, the CPUC found that 1.25 GW of solar has been installed across 122,516 sites* in publicly-owned utility (POU) areas. Under the CSI program specifically, 97 MW are said to have been added in the first quarter of 2012, out of a total of 148.4 MW of newly-installed solar capacity in California.

In comparison, in 2011, 311 MW were installed in POU areas, thus representing a growth of 60 percent from 2010. Of this, a "record" 261 MW were installed through the CSI. In the recently released assessment, the authors wrote, "In 2012, the CSI Program has seen an increase in applications compared with the corresponding period of 2011 … There have been over 8,000 applications for new solar projects, with a total capacity of 94 MW received between January and April, 2012."

The CSI is a solar rebate program for California’s investor-owned utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). With a budget of $2.4 billion, its goal is to install 1.94 GW of solar (systems up to one MW in size) by the end of 2016. Based on the current rate of activity, predictions are that it will reach its own one GW milestone by the end of the year.

Leading the program’s way is utility PG&E, which has installed a total of 479 MW of solar. The table below shows the three utilities’ solar progress.

Customer class






Non-residential (MW)





Residential (MW)






Non-residential (MW)





Residential (MW)






Non-residential (MW)





Residential (MW)





CSI Progress Towards Program Goal of 1,750 MW. Source: CPUC

In terms of average installed costs per Watt, costs for systems under 10 kW are said to have fallen 28 percent since 2007, from $10.69 to US$7.75. Meanwhile, for systems over 10 kW, costs have dropped to $6.83, from $9.36.

Furthermore, CPUC says that CSI projects in low income markets, where median incomes are $50,000, have increased by 364 percent since 2007, and projects in middle income markets, where incomes are between $50,000 and $100,000,  have increased by 445 percent since 2007. The latter group was said to comprise the majority of applications received in 2011.

The CSI program is composed of different elements. Below is an overview:

Program component

Budget (US$ millions)


General Market Solar Program (includes PV and electric displacing solar thermal technologies)



1,750 MW


Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH)




95 MW *


Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH)




95 MW *


Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment (RD&D)






Solar Water Heating Pilot Program (SWHPP)




750 SWH systems


Sub-Total: CSI Electric Budget (Electric Displacing)




1,940 MW


CSI Thermal Program (Gas-Displacing)


585 million therms9

Total CSI Budget



Source: CPUC. * The CPUC is currently considering revising the MW goals for the MASH and SASH Programs.

While California is the undisputed U.S. state leader in terms of cumulative installed solar capacity, the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research recently found that New Jersey overtook the golden state for the first time in terms of new installations, having added 173.8 MW, compared to 148.4 MW in the first quarter of this year.

Overall, during the first three months, they found that 506 MW of solar were installed across the U.S. Predictions are that 3.2 GW will be installed until the end of 2012.

* Please note that all installation figures apart from SEIA's and GTM Research's are based on data from the CIS program, New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP), Emerging Renewables Program (ERP) and Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), and do not include those from POU or the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) programs.

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