A Guide to Solar Power In California 

Your reason may be an environmentally conscious choice or simply to save money in the long run. With the cost of solar going down every year, and the housing market booming, this is a perfect time to add green energy enhancements to your property. Whatever the reason you are considering investing and installing solar energy harnessing devices, let’s take a look at some of the most common questions and answers for solar power installation in California.


There are several sources of clean, renewable energy available nowadays and all have positive ways of impacting the environment. Besides wind power, hydropower, geothermal energy, and biomass there is solar energy. Using any clean energy source of power instead of dirty fuel, reduces the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere. Reducing the amount of carbon into the environment ultimately means cleaner air and water around the world and a reduction in the greenhouse gas effect, which in turn means a reduction in global warming and climate change effects.


The primary technology that harnesses the sun’s power and turns it into electricity is photovoltaics (PV), better known as solar panels. Placed on rooftops or in open yards, these panels absorb photons from sunlight which then creates an electric field causing electricity to flow. Learn more about how PV works.


A very rough estimate to give you an idea of the possible savings is about $1,000 a year in energy saving cots. To get a more accurate preview, there are several factors that determine the right answer for your situation:

  1. It will depend on how much electricity you consume.
  2. The size of the solar energy system you decide to install. 
  3. Will you be buying or leasing your system?
  4. The actual direction the roof faces and how much sunlight it can gather. 
  5. The electricity rates set by your local utility provider. 
  6. The compensation you’ll receive for any excess solar energy that cycles back to the grid. 

The National Utility Rate Database provides current electricity rates for your area.

Solar energy is already quickly becoming cost competitive with traditional electricity providers around the country. For over a decade, solar costs have reduced year after year and that trend is on track to continue, from the panels themselves, to installation, permits, and inspections. The U.S. government is working diligently to continue to make solar energy more affordable and easier for consumers.

Image shared from Energy Sage, offering the ability to click on any county in C.A. to get an immediate cost summary as demonstrated above for San Mateo County, with a 5kw system. Data updated May 2021.


  1. First find out if your roof is suitable for solar installation. Each state has resources and tools to give you immediate answers and competing 5-star companies to help guide you through the process.
  2. In the future you may be able to install solar panels yourself with an easy mounting system that connects to the energy grid, but for right now you will still need a certified installer.
  3. Get several competing quotes from installers in your county. 
  4. Have several homes in your neighborhood interested in going solar? A solarize campaign can work to negotiate better rates for everyone that participates.


Figuring out solar financing can be a bit complicated because there are so many options and each case is individual. The Clean Energy States Alliance has prepared a guide to help homeowners nagavaite their options, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each. 


California has some of the most attractive incentive programs in the country, working on getting to 100% clean energy in the next 25 years. The list is comprehensive and a step-by-step outline is offered here from SunRun. These are some of the options:

  • Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
  • Single-Family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH)
  • Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP)
  • Solar Energy System Property Tax Exclusion
  • Local Utility Company Rebates (San Francisco and Sacramento only)
  • Personal Tax Credit
  • Sales Tax Incentive
  • Rebate Program
  • Property Tax Incentive
  • PACE Financing
  • Loan Program
  • Grant Program
  • Other Incentive

California is a global leader in the transition to clean energy, thereby making it one of the easiest and most affordable states to go solar. There are many, many excellent resources, programs, and incentives to get you easily started and on your path to joining the clean energy movement.

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