Go Solar, California! Newsletter - June 2010

Solar Toolbox

CSI Handbook



CSI NSHP Affordable Developer Toolkit

CSI Annual Program Assessment

CSI Program Administrators

California Center for Sustainable Energy

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Southern California Edison

California Public Utilities Commission

Go Solar, California! Web site

Greetings ,

csi-nl-box-augSolar keeps getting bigger: In late May, the largest concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) system installation in North America began operations at Victor Valley College in Victorville, Calif. The 1-megawatt, six-acre facility consists of 122 8.4-kilowatt CPV arrays manufactured by SolFocus of Mountain View, Calif., and will produce roughly 30 percent of the college’s electrical demand. The college will receive more than $4 million in CSI performance-based incentives. Read on for important updates from the CSI Program Administrators, including CSI Program Handbook changes and schedules of free PV and solar thermal installer trainings throughout California.

In This Issue

Special Announcement
The next CSI Program Forum will be held July 30 at the California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego.
All solar stakeholders are welcomed to the forum to help identify and discuss top priority issues related to the administration and implementation of the CSI program and to make any comments on revisions to the CSI Program Handbook. For further information, location details and agenda, click here.

New CSI Handbook Approved

As the CSI Program moves along in its fourth year, the Program Administrators (PAs) continue to streamline the process and make improvements in its operation. However, this latest round of CSI Program Handbook changes goes beyond minor process changes to reflect the PAs’ strong position on consumer protection with new cost-validation measures and consequences for contractors that do not pass inspections. The June 2010 edition of the CSI Handbook has been released, and highlights of some key changes include:

• A new CSI Project Review section added to further ensure compliance of the program guidelines and distinguish discrepancies as infractions or failures.
• Limitations on installed system costs based on a 12-month running average. Program administrators will no longer automatically accept applications for incentives if project costs are higher than two standard deviations above the running average system price. This “soft cap,” now $14.70/watt, allows PAs to request back-up cost documentation for high-cost projects in order to protect consumers from potentially over-priced systems.
• New warranty requirements to clarify obligation of equipment manufacturers and solar contractors.

For more information on these and other changes, please review the newest CSI Program Handbook here or check with your local PA.

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SCE Nearing CSI Residential & Commercial Step Changes

Southern California Edison (SCE) customers eagerly continue to go solar and should note that SCE nears another step change in the CSI program.

As of June 18, there are just 2.62 megawatts (MW) remaining in residential Step 4, with 6.66 MW under review. Once SCE moves into residential Step 5, the incentive will drop from the current $1.90/watt to $1.55/watt. As of the same date, there are 47.92 MW remaining in nonresidential Step 6, with 74.24 MW under review. Once SCE moves into nonresidential Step 7, the incentive will drop from the current $0.15/kilowatt-hour (kWh) to $0.09/kWh.
submit-your-photos-small Historically, Program Administrators (PAs) face a significant increase in the number of applications as step changes approach. Please keep in mind that PAs process applications in the order received. Because no one knows when a step change will occur, you may want to monitor the CSI Trigger Tracker.
The Trigger Tracker provides an indication of when the CSI incentive levels are expected to drop by showing the reservation and review status of all incentive classes. It compares the megawatts remaining in each step with the megawatts under review, so that users can estimate how close the incentives are to declining. When there are more megawatts under review than remaining in the step, it is probable that any new applications will be at the next (i.e. lower) incentive step level.
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PG&E Reaches Step 8 for Non-residential CSI Incentives

As of June 21, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has enough applications under review to reach capacity for Step 7 nonresidential incentives. Since the last step change in April 2010, PG&E has received a record number of applications, accounting for over 63 MW of reservation requests. This is an extraordinary accomplishment in such a short amount of time.

While the exact cut-off date has not been determined, PG&E encourages you to submit your complete application package with all required documentation for any potential projects as soon as possible. In addition, please let PG&E know if you have any reserved or currently under review nonresidential applications that are no longer proceeding and need to be canceled. This will allow PG&E to put more megawatts back into Step 7 and maximize this step.

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CSI Program Establishes Soft Cap to Control Solar Prices

As part of efforts to protect consumers from over-priced solar systems and thwart fraudulent federal tax claims, CSI Program Administrators have established a “soft cap” of $14.70 per watt for solar projects that apply for incentives. Unlike a traditional cost cap that firmly rejects any project above the price ceiling, the rules for the soft cap dictate that projects priced two standard deviations above average system costs (as listed in the CSI database) will be required to provide documentation to justify the higher costs.  As of the first quarter of 2010, the average systems costs ranged from $9.21 for systems less than 10 kW and $7.66 for larger systems (see Q1 Program Forum presentation slides here.)

“Some projects do legitimately cost more, such as installations on historic buildings or those that require additional equipment to connect panels,” said CSI Program Supervisor Molly Sterkel. “If such a justification exists, program administrators may waive the soft cap.”

Details of the new pricing policy are found in section 3.4.1 of the June 2010 CSI Program Handbook.

Read more in the San Francisco Business Times.

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First CSI Thermal Incentive Issued in the State

The first Californian to receive an incentive through the CSI Thermal residential program launched in May is Cecilia Collados of Walnut Creek, Calif., in the Pacific Gas & Electric service territory. She received a rebate of $1,440 and reports she is very pleased with the new solar water heating system.

Collados explained that the new program helped her make the decision to go solar: “I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while and the incentive is one of the things I considered since this is a pretty big investment.”

Another important factor that swayed Collados is that she is an energy-conscience consumer who is concerned about the environment and this was a way for her to do her part. With the new system, she will displace an estimated 117 therms a year for her 2,500-square-foot home.

Click here to learn more about the CSI Thermal program.

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CSLB Warns Californians: Don’t Get Burned When Going Solar

The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) recently issued tips for consumers to protect themselves from solar energy scammers in a press release. The CSLB’s concern is that as more consumers want to “go green” and take advantage of solar rebates and tax credits, they could be victimized by unlicensed, unscrupulous or unaware contractors.

"Take a few minutes to research contractors by using the Instant License Check and other helpful tools on CSLB’s Web site," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Legitimate, licensed contractors want customers to be comfortable and confident with the contracts they are signing. And licensees are more likely to do all that is required in order to receive available state and federal incentives for alternative energy."

To read the complete news release, go to the CSLB newsroom.

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Solar Water Heating Students Graduate

Twenty-five contractors successfully completed PG&E’s PowerPathway™ solar water heating installation training over the course of six days in June at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif.

For three consecutive weekends, students were challenged with a combined curriculum in photovoltaic panel installation and residential water heater plumbing taught by industry experts. The in-classroom instruction was complemented with hands-on technical training on the various solar water heating systems. With this training, contractors will have the ability to expand their existing business offerings to include solar water heating and compete more effectively in the market. The training was offered in support of the recently launched CSI Thermal Program.

If you are interested in finding a solar water heating professional qualified by the CSI Program Administrators to apply for program rebates, please visit the Eligible Solar Thermal Contractors list.

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SASH Program Extends Solar into Upper Lake Tribal Community

The first of several solar PV installations slated for homes owned by members of the Habematolel Pomo Tribe in Upper Lake, Calif., was completed in June as part of CSI’s Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program administered by GRID Alternatives. The Tribe of nearly 200 members currently has contracts in place with GRID Alternatives to install PV systems for six households in partnership with Sun Kiss Solar.

In addition to generating clean power and reducing electricity costs for low-income tribal families, the project has the additional benefit of creating job opportunities and workforce training in a community that has unemployment rates some 40% higher than the rest of California. Each SASH installation in tribal lands will hire trainees from the local area, enabling community members to develop job skills in the solar field.

If you are interested in learning more about the SASH Program please visit www.gridalternatives.org or call (510) 652-4730.

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GRID Alternatives Hosts the Greater Los Angeles Solarthon

On Saturday, June 12, GRID Alternatives hosted the Greater Los Angeles Solarthon event in the Piru community of Ventura County, during which teams of volunteers, job trainees and individual and corporate work crews installed solar PV systems for eight low-income families in one neighborhood, all in one day.

Nearly 100 people participated in the solar block party in the Piru neighborhood where 17 of 22 homes now have solar under CSI’s Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program administered by GRID Alternatives – and more SASH-qualified homeowners have scheduled future installations.

During the event, 12 job trainees from area green-jobs development organizations received valuable on-the-job solar training through their participation.GRID Alternatives would like to thank its volunteers, sponsors, job trainees, work crews, homeowners and staff for making the Greater Los Angeles Solarthon a success.

GRID Alternatives is planning three more Solarthon events throughout the state:

Bay Area – Saturday, July 31, West Oakland
Central Valley – Saturday, October 2, Fresno
San Diego County – Saturday, October 30, San Diego

If you’d like to participate in Solarthon or would like more information on the SASH Program, visit GRID Alternative’s Web site or call (510) 652-4730.

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San Diego Solar Industry Focus Group Convenes

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) hosted the second San Diego solar industry meeting June 17 in conjunction with CalSEIA to discuss recent policies affecting the solar industry.

Representatives from all sectors of the local solar industry were in attendance, contributing to a constructive and robust discussion. Benjamin Airth, CCSE’s CSI residential program manager, began the meeting by displaying current CSI data in the San Diego region and discussing the marketing and education efforts of CCSE.

Sue Kateley of CalSEIA provided information and insight about current and upcoming solar policies and urged all in attendance to join CalSEIA. One of the purposes of the meeting was to promote a San Diego CalSEIA chapter. Enthusiastic discussion continued during a reception after the meeting. Next month’s meeting will focus on solar financing issues, with representatives from local financial institutions.

For more information regarding the San Diego solar focus group and CalSEIA chapter, please contact Virginia Snyder or Jana Kopyciok.

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Visit the Go Solar, California! Booth at Intersolar

CSI Program Administrators are proud to be exhibiting at this year’s Intersolar Exhibition and Conference taking place at the Moscone Center West Hall in San Francisco during July 13-15. Come visit the Go Solar, California! booth for latest information on the CSI and CSI Thermal programs.

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SolarDay 2010 Celebrated in San Diego

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) hosted a day of workshops, a homeowner panel and solar cooking demonstrations for SolarDay on Saturday, June 19. Since its creation last year, SolarDay has grown from one event in San Francisco to nearly 50 events across North America in 2010, according to organizers. Its purpose is to highlight aspects of green living and climate change with events that focus on educating residents about renewable energy programs, rebates and incentives available for solar projects.

The San Diego event included workshops on solar water heating, solar PV for homeowners and how to pick a solar contractor presented by members of CCSE’s CSI team. A panel of solar homeowners discussed important energy efficiency measures they took before going solar, the benefits of a solar system and their experiences working with contractors and the CSI program. Visitors also toured CCSE’s Energy Resource Center to view energy-related equipment, products, hands-on displays and interactive kiosks.

This is the first SolarDay hosted by CCSE, but with its success, CCSE plans to celebrate SolarDay again next year.

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PowerClerk Upgrades Save Contractors Time and Money

Recent upgrades to PowerClerk, CSI’s online application process, are proving to be highly effective for creating, submitting and managing projects, with positive feedback about the system coming from both users and program administrators (PAs). The latest revision has had dramatic and immediate effects on the efficiency of application submissions.

PowerClerk now allows users to upload all of the supporting documents right into the tool, making the application process paperless on the administrator side. The upload feature not only saves paper and postage but also many hours on both sides of the application submittal process.

Any applicants not currently using this online upload feature are encouraged to experience its benefits. If you have any questions regarding PowerClerk, please contact the CSI PA in your service territory or click here.

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Upcoming Workshops and Trainings by Program Territory
csi-nl-box-sept Free Statewide Workshops by the California Solar Initiative
CSI Program Administrators sponsor free, ongoing workshops for solar customers and installers on a variety of topics.

Workshops in PG&E Service Territory

Workshops in SCE Service Territory

Workshops in SDG&E Service Territory by the California Center for Sustainable Energy



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New Solar Homes Partnership Training Workshops

The California Energy Commission will conduct three training workshops on the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) within the next few weeks. This is a great opportunity for solar retailers and installers, builders/developers, HERS raters and energy consultants to learn more about NSHP, the application process and the online application tool. Here are the dates:

Thursday, June 24, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
California Energy Commission, 1516 Ninth Street
Register by e-mail

San Diego
Friday, June 25, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Handlery Hotel and Resort, 950 Hotel Circle North
Register online or by e-mail

Santa Cruz
Thursday, July 8, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The University Inn and Conference Center, 611 Ocean Street
Register by e-mail

Click here for more information about upcoming training workshops.

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Call for Photos of CSI-Funded Solar Systems

Calling all installers and solar system owners! This is a great opportunity to showcase your CSI-funded solar projects. The California Solar Initiative Program seeks photos of CSI-funded solar systems for use in future newsletters or other CSI-related publicity. Photos can include completed solar PV systems, shots of installations in progress or solar water heating installations.

Please provide the following when submitting your solar PV system, solar water heating system or installation photos.

  • Name of photographer
  • Name of installer, seller and/or system owner
  • System size and location
  • Date project was installed
  • Full permission to use photo in CSI-related publicity

Submit your CSI-funded solar system photos here.

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CCSE | PG&E | SCE | © 2010 California Solar Initiative


The CSI program is funded by California investor-owned utility customers and administered by Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the California Center for Sustainable Energy under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.

California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, California 94102