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A Brief Guide to Solar Energy Initiatives in L.A. County

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Photo by Dave Dugdale via Flickr

Photo by Dave Dugdale via Flickr
It has never been easier to go solar than right now. Cities like Glendale, Lancaster, and Palm Desert have answered California's challenge to install energy efficient improvements starting with the every day home.

It has been a long road of lobbying, debating, and amending legislation but California is finally reaping the fruit of what was sewn. Back in 2006 California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (PDF) to set vision for energy efficient improvements in compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. As a result, California’s AB 811 enabled cities and counties to finance the installation of solar energy in individual property homes. Cities are now adopting plans to carry out these measures, leaving the next step up to the individual property owner.

Last year Los Angeles County passed the Los Angeles County Energy Program to encourage cities to participate in reducing energy consumption by at least 20 percent. And recently it seems that surrounding cities are responding.

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Glendale’s City Council unanimously passed a program last week to help property owners upfront the cost of installing solar energy. Homeowners in Glendale can now apply through the county for energy-efficient upgrades,according to the Glendale News-Press. The loan is repaid through a line-item assessment on the building’s property tax, meaning the payments for the home stay with the home.

The program comes at no extra cost for the city, the loans are low interest, property tax remains unchanged for those not participating, and property owner payments are fixed for 20 years. And because total costs of instillation may reach the tens of thousands, participating homeowners may be eligible to up to $4,500 in rebates and tax credits, according to the article.

Glendale sees other advantages in providing construction jobs as well, since contractors suffered greatly in the recession.

The City of Los Angeles also issued a Solar Energy Plan in 2008 called Solar LA (PDF). For Los Angeles, the solution is in the problem. With an average of 276 days of sunshine in a year, the energy demand is high, but it also means the potential for effective solar power is also high. Los Angeles hopes to install 380 megawatts of solar power for residential purposes by 2020.

Another city stepping up to the challenge is Lancaster in the Antelope Valley. To spur on more applications Lancaster has decided to set up thefirst ever public-private partnership with company SolarCity. Business and non-profits can install solar panels with no upfront costs, and pay only for the electricity their solar arrays produce. Lancaster also announced yesterday a plan to install 2.5 megawatts of new solar electric power across the city, making the project one of the largest, as well as one of the most expensive, in California.

As legislation trickles down through the hierarchy of government it seems only one more obstacle stands in the way of being completely solar powered: individuals applying for the programs set up by the city. The decision is now in the hands of individual homeowner to apply to the program and begin installation preparations.