GoSolarSF: Benefits of San Francisco’s Solar Program

Solar installation workers

Massive reductions in the price of solar means that more Americans are benefiting from this bill-saving, job-creating homegrown resource. Residential solar adoption is through the roof even as incentive programs have wound down in major markets like California. In fact, more than one out of every three new U.S. residential solar energy systems installed in Q1 of this year did so without state incentives. And those installations are overwhelmingly occurring in middle-income neighborhoods – an impressive testament to our nation’s solar progress.

With cost-competitive solar increasingly within reach for the middle class, there remains an important role for incentive programs that are focused on bringing those same benefits to disadvantaged families. In 2008, the City of San Francisco launched GoSolarSF to do just that. The program provides a one-time incentive payment for solar on homes, businesses and non-profit organizations (including local government facilities) with additional support for consumers meeting low-income requirements. And while any local solar development means local job creation, GoSolarSF was designed to further ensure that those jobs are accessible to disadvantaged San Franciscans through a workforce development program.

In order to help quantify the real-world impacts of GoSolarSF, we produced a report on the market, economic and environmental benefits of solar energy systems installed or in the queue for the program as of April 2014. Top level findings include:

Solar Market Development:

  • More than 3,070 solar energy systems on San Francisco homes, businesses, non-profits and local government facilities
  • Nearly 10,160 kW of total solar capacity
  • An impressive 37% of residential capacity (kW) was installed on qualifying low-income single-family and multi-family homes

Economic Development:

  • Installations driving $65 million in investment in the local San Francisco economy
  • Installations supporting more than 400 local jobs and $19.5-$22.8 million in wages that can be reinvested in the local economy
  • Workforce Development program providing 121 direct solar job placements for San Francisco residents who otherwise face barriers to employment
  • Workers of color representing the largest populations served by the Workforce Development program with 40% Black/African American and 22% Latino/Hispanic job placements
  • 31 solar companies participating in the local Workforce Development program
  • National solar leaders have chosen employ hundreds of local workers because of GoSolarSF and the City’s nationally-recognized culture of solar policy innovation

Environmental Benefits:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 172,631,800 pounds over the lifetime of installed systems, helping meet the City’s climate action goals
  • Reducing the need for fossil-based peak power generation, which has historically disproportionately impacted the health of low-income families

In short, GoSolarSF has encouraged significant private investment in San Francisco’s local solar market, which has in turn delivered economic and environmental benefits to the greater community. The City by the Bay’s solar program has given thousands of San Francisco energy consumers control over their electricity sources and utility bills by making solar power a cost-effective option. And – most exciting – the program’s focus on empowering low-income and underserved members of the community to participate in and benefit from the city’s growing solar economy has proven particularly successful. You can read and download the full report for yourself below. Big thanks to our friends at Brightline Defense, Luminalt, and Asian Neighborhood Design for their help with this report as well as their huge role in bringing solar benefits to those who need them most via GoSolarSF. 

GoSolarSF: Economic & Environmental Impacts from VoteSolar
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