Expanding Solar Access in California’s San Joaquin Valley

Solar has been booming in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley, including many farmers and schools going solar to lower their energy bills. However, some areas in the Valley face unique challenges to accessing on-site solar energy. This challenge is also an opportunity.

Many communities in the Central Valley have never been serviced by California’s massive natural gas pipeline network. This means many families are forced to rely on more expensive propane or electricity for their home energy needs, and it means they’ve been unable to access rebate programs and other incentives for rooftop solar energy systems.

Extending natural gas pipelines to these communities would be extremely expensive, not to mention a stranded investment as the state heads away from fossil fuels. As a result, the CPUC is seeking more affordable options to help families with high energy bills.

Sound like a job for solar (both PV and thermal) and storage? You bet!

Solar water heating can provide relief for consumers quickly and cheaply. Some homes need roof repair to support solar thermal systems, and that could be part of an energy assistance package combining different sources of funds. Solar PV combined with storage can help as well, both on-site and at a community level.

Those are some of the ideas we shared last week at an all-day workshop in Fresno as part of a CPUC proceeding on the topic. The proceeding is considering innovative pilot projects to provide assistance to 12 targeted communities. The results of those pilots will inform new programs to be rolled out in 170 disadvantaged communities throughout the Valley.

Over the next several weeks, the CPUC will host outreach meetings in the 12 communities, explaining the potential options, how they could affect energy bills, and implementation timelines.  After receiving local input, the CPUC is expected to release a proposed decision later this year on the approach for these pilot projects.

This effort is bringing together key people at the CPUC, utilities, local community leaders, and the clean energy industry to develop creative solutions for San Joaquin Valley.

CALSSA Member Weekly Update: May 1, 2018

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