According to the 2016 edition of Next 10’s California Green Innovation index, California posted impressive growth in new solar power usage in 2015, with an increase of 62% or 401 MW from 2014. The residential sector had the largest total MW increase with 312 additional MWs interconnected, representing a 65% increase from 2014. This is good news for the stretched state power grid this summer, given residential electricity use makes up 32% of total electricity usage across California.
Increased solar power use is one of the reasons California’s average monthly residential electricity bill has been 20% lower than the U.S. average. Some quick math illustrates that an average home solar installation can save you $50 a month on your electricity bill.
One area in California that is really taking advantage of that solar savings? San Diego.
Next 10’s report found that San Diego-Carlsbad (San Diego area) ranked just behind Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario as the market with the second most residential solar power installations (132,007 kW residential).
On the heels of the report, we decided to do our own dive into Chai Energy users solar power use across California. Specifically, we looked at recent data from nearly 3,000 Chai users in California in more than than 500 zip codes. This included customers using San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas and Electric as utility providers. Out of the zip codes with at least 10 current Chai users, these were the zip codes with the highest percentage of residents harnessing the power of the sun.
- Carlsbad, CA (92009) 55%
- San Diego, CA (92127) 50%
- San Jose, CA (95120) 45%
- Escondido, CA (92026) 45%
- Poway, CA (92064) 44%
- Chula Vista, CA (91913) 42%
- El Cajon, CA (92019) 40%
- Campbell, CA (95008) 40%
- Pleasanton, CA (94588) 33%
- Irvine, CA (92602) 31%
Getting a bit more granular with zip codes than Next 10’s report, you can see how well the San Diego area is represented. In fact, six of the top ten solar friendly zip codes in California can be found in the San Diego area.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 3 San Diego area zip codes:
Number one on the list, and in the San Diego area, is Carlsbad, with 55% of Chai users there leveraging residential solar power. In Carlsbad’s 2009 Public Opinion Visioning Survey, when asked to report their level of agreement with a statements related to Carlsbad’s natural environment, 75% of residents reported “The City should be more actively involved in developing new renewable energy options, such as solar roofs or wind turbines”. The city has responded with several initiatives to increase the use of solar. One move was speeding up the permit processing time for roof-mounted solar systems from three weeks to one day. It’s also getting into solar itself with an installation that almost 100% powers the city’s new Safety Training Center. The 352 rooftop solar panels on the center are capable of generating 195,000 kW a year, saving taxpayers a projected $1.2 million over their 30-year lifespan.
Those within the northern San Diego zip code of 92127 – near Encinitas and Fairbanks Ranch– came in number two on the list, with 50% of Chai users leveraging solar. With its own environmental festival (EcoFest) ten years and running, Encinitas, is its own hotbed for solar activity. The greater San Diego metro area – on the other hand – has been aggressively pushing towards using more solar power. Last October it signed a 20-year agreement with SunEdison to put solar energy installations on 25 city sites, which could cut energy costs by as much as 45%. That agreement is just a piece of Mayor Faulconer’s goal of using 100% renewable energy in the city by 2035. San Diego is well on its way with a 26% increase in solar panel installations over the past year.
Rounding out the top three San Diego area zip codes on the list was Escondido (45% solar). While our data looked at the residential use of solar power, Escondido is adopting solar power in other ways that will undoubtedly sow the seeds for future residential adoption. Escondido’s school district has become the latest to agree to a power purchase agreement with a Silicon Valley-based solar company that could help bring $9.8 million in savings over the next 20 years. Harnessing the sun to power the schools in the city will undoubtedly help educate the youth on the importance of going solar.