This is staggering. In just over six months; Sonoma County’s Energy Independence Program has received 375 applications for more than $17 million worth of solar loans. Since Sonoma County went live with its PACE model of solar funding in March; applications have been pouring in daily, and the county intends to make loans indefinitely by packaging them as bonds.
“There is no end in sight,” said Amy Bolten, a county spokeswoman. “We think our program is just getting going.” And this is in addition to the county’s already very high solar adoption.
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PG&E’s Jana Morris said that Sonoma County now has 25 solar megawatts online – 4% of Sonoma County’s power demand, among 2,492 total solar installations.
Since there are no utility-scale solar power plants in Sonoma County, this means that the county has hit an incredible 4% solar penetration, just from “distributed” solar. That is, just off of home rooftops; private yards, industrial buildings and parking lots. And under PACE; this is due for takeoff.
Sonoma County’s Energy Independence Program; the first to go county-wide in California, allows property owners to borrow to install solar without needing to qualify for a bank loan. Instead, the county fronts the money and the property owner repays the county through their own property tax payments over five to 20 years at about 7% interest.
County assessor Rod Dole, a central player in the program, said: “This program pays for itself” when he rolled out the program earlier this year. Residential applicants don’t need approval from their mortgage holders. Commercial applicants do have to give their bankers a chance to make a better deal. The county interest charged is a relatively steep 7%. The object is to make it easy to get green projects funded, not to steal bank customers, Dole said.
The concept was first tried in Berkeley First, a small 40 homeowner pilot project that sold out in the first nine minutes. A number of other cities, counties and states are developing similar PACE legislation. You can find out how far along your city or county is on developing solar property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing at 1Block Off the grid; which also helps neighborhoods negotiate group discounts for solar.
While there is language supporting this kind of tax assessment bond financing in Waxman-Markey (section 294: pdf) the House version of the Senate climate bill, Joe Biden’s Recovery Through Retrofit appears to have just died at a fossilized department of the Department of Energy where funding was refused a month after the unveiling.
Somebody ought to call Joe Biden and let him know how successful this next stage has been. He has said he wants to make municipal solar funding available nationally in Recovery Through Retrofit.
He’s looking for job-growing ideas. Getting $17 million worth of solar projects going in just over six months sounds like that to me!
Image: Solar Fair