San Diego sees spike in solar panel installations

SAN DIEGO - As the region tries to fill the energy gap left by the closing of the San Onofre nuclear facility, local residents are turning to solar energy, with San Diego County seeing an increase in solar panel installations.

The number of local installations climbed from approximately 10,700 in 2012 to 14,072 in 2013 - a jump of 32 percent, according to number from the research group Equinox Center.

A solar array was going up on a home on 6th Street in Ramona Wednesday. These panels are owned -- not by the homeowner -- but SolarCity, which covers the installation.

The customer pays a rental fee and receives tax incentives and a significantly reduced utility bill
Led by its board chair and Tesla founder Elon Musk, the company has leased out hundreds of local solar arrays in the past few years.

“In the end, we're cutting their costs by about 85 percent,” said Pete Smith, a regional operations manager for SolarCity.

Solar lease rates can range from $50 to more than $200 a month, depending on the size of the installation.
           
The leasing trend is helping spark the solar leap. Equinox Center reports that the local cities with the most solar power generated per person include Poway, Santee and Solana Beach.
           
Exposure to sun is one factor, along with lot size.

“Those areas typically have larger lot sizes, which improves the ability to put larger solar installations on the property itself,” said Trevor Callan, Equinox Center Board President.

The cities generating the least amount of solar are National City, La Mesa and Lemon Grove.
           
The need for solar energy is coming at a time when people are increasing their energy usage.
           
In San Diego County, the amount of energy consumed per person continues to inch upward.  From 2012 to 2013, usage increased by .14 kilowatts, from 5.85 to 5.99 kilowatts per person per day.

San Diego resident’s average energy usage is lower than Orange County, but higher than LA County.

Meanwhile, 10News has partnered with the Equinox Center to look at quality of life issues leading up to the release of its annual dashboard report next Monday.
           
For more information on solar options or ways to reduce energy consumption, visit equinoxcenter.org.

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