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Program Encourages Going Solar

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

March 6 -- Imagine every rooftop in Santa Monica blanketed with energy-absorbent solar panels. That day could come sooner than you think.

With spring comes a new program whose proponents say could eventually offer clean, renewable energy to every business and home owner in Santa Monica by harnessing the rays of the sun.

Dubbed Solar Santa Monica, the City program focuses on bringing 50 new demonstration installations over the next two years to prove the effectiveness of going solar.

"The City Council wants to make Santa Monica energy independent," said consultant Virginia Nicols of Ecomotion, hired by the City to oversee the program.

"Many cities offer incentives...Santa Monica is unique because they are not paying anybody,” she said. “They are putting their umph behind market changes."

The program has already sparked the interest of scores of residents and business owners, and the City has secured contractors to install the first batch of solar panels on test homes in the next few weeks, Nicols said.

City officials are encouraging both residents and businesses to apply for an opportunity to have the panels installed at a discount. For those who participate, the City will also waive permit process, City officials said.

With each solar installation in a residential home estimated to cost between $18,000 and $20,000, homeowners will be given a choice of fixed-price "packages" for efficiency items that work with the solar panels.

Rebates through the State's solar program and Federal tax credits will also help relieve the financial burden, consultants said.

"The State rebate could be as much as $5,000 to $6,000," Nicols said.

The financial savings will come in the long-term, when homeowners and businesses see a break on their utility bills. Before the panels are installed, an evaluation will take place to ensure other energy efficient upgrades are made.

To date, there are 68 solar electricity and solar thermal installations perched on rooftops citywide, City officials said.

For more information call the City's Santa Monica Solar program at call (310) 458-8229.





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