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California emerging as solar leader

17th Nov 2011

California is leading the way in when it comes to meeting renewable energy targets, with a major solar power milestone recently being reached.

A new report released by the Environment California Research and Policy Centre has revealed that the west coast US state is now home to one gigawatt worth of rooftop solar power.

Only five countries in the world have reached the this benchmark - Germany, Spain, Japan, Italy and the Czech Republic.

"California can become the Saudi Arabia of the sun if it continues to get behind big, successful solar programs," said clean energy advocate with Environment California Research and Policy Centre Michelle Kinman said.

The milestone is part of California's larger Million Solar Roofs Initiative - the established goal of installing three gigawatts of distributed solar energy capacity by 2016.

A report - titled Building a Brighter Future: California’s Progress Toward a Million Solar Roofs - credits the state wide California Solar Initiative for some of the success - the rooftop solar panel program responsible for installations generating 600 megawatts of solar power.

The state has a long history of encouraging renewable energies, particularly solar - Go Solar California campaign was created in 2006 under the Million Solar Roofs law as part of a 10-year effort to provide funding for the installation of rooftop panel systems on homes, commercial
businesses, farms and government and nonprofit buildings.

Since then, California’s solar market has been expanding by about 40 per cent per year.

Even if market growth is reduced to 25 per cent over the coming years, the state will reach the three gigawatt goal before the deadline in five years time.

The electricity produced by rooftop solar power installations in California equates to two coal-fired power plants and has the ability to power up to 750,000 homes.

Environment California's and its allies are continuing to advocate for further policy initiatives to ensure that the goal remains on track, including a mandate that all new homes come equipped with solar systems as well as the introduction of a state wide feed-in tariff program - much like that found in some Australian states.

Australia is continuing to make a name for itself as an alternative energy supporter on an international scale, particularly with the passing of legislation allowing the introduction of a carbon tax.

Like California, Australia also has a solar energy goal - 20 per cent of the country's electricity supply is planned to come from renewable sources by 2020. 

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent 

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