Where does our electricity come from?

The US energy sector is comprised of multiple energy sources, including fossil, nuclear, and several renewable sources. Fossil fuels are the dominant sources of energy. In 2010, 89% of the electricity produced was from fossil fuels, while only 11% of total US primary energy was produced from renewable energy sources, which can be used to generate electricity, and provide heating/cooling for industrial, residential and commercial sectors.

Figure 1 - Breakdown of the US electricity generation by source.

California, with its abundant natural resources, has a long history of support for renewable energy. Around the turn of the 20th century, tens-of-thousands of homes in Southern California took advantage of the "California sunshine" to heat water for their homes.

The oil crises of the 1970s gave rise to concerns over dependence on fossil fuels.  Following deregulation of the electric utilities in 1998, the California Energy Commission was placed in charge of a new Renewable Energy Program to help increase total renewable electricity production statewide, helping to make California a recognized leader in the field.

The Go Solar California campaign is a joint effort of the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, to encourage Californians to install 3,000 megawatts of solar energy systems on homes and businesses by the end of 2016.

The Abundant sunshine of Southern California has made it one of the brightest markets for residential and commercial solar power in the country.

Having 284 days of sunshine per year, City of Calabasas is well poised to take advantage to convert the sunlight into electricity either directly using Photovoltaic (PV) or indirectly using Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) systems.

In its commitment to secure long-term sustainability, and to meet California’s goal of generating 33% of its energy from renewable resources by 2020, City of Calabasas has adopted green initiatives to face environmental challenges, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save money by harnessing solar energy for powering the city.

Solar energy is abundant, clean, climate-friendly, and inexhaustible, and can be generated right in our neighborhoods.

Figure 2 - US Solar map

Figure 3 - Calabasas has 284 sunny days.


Generating Solar Energy:

Before producing solar energy, there needs to be some form of solar cell or panel that will be used to absorb the sun's energy. Solar panels are constructed of silicon, which are the most common semi-conductive metal.

When photons (the sun’s rays) hit a solar cell, the electrons contained in the solar cell material absorb the solar energy, which transforms the electrons into conduction electrons. If the energy of these photons is great enough then the electrons are able to become free and carry an electric charge through a circuit to the destination.

See a pop-up animation of how solar electricity panels can work in your home.


Some General Solar Facts:

  • The mounting price of fossil fuels has negative impact on the economy. The need of sustainable and renewable energy resources has become vital. Solar energy is healthier for the environment than energy generated from traditional fossil fuels- oil, natural gas, and coal.
  • Solar energy can be used to produce electricity; heat swimming pools; power cars, attic fans, calculators and other small appliances. It can also be used to produce lighting for indoors and outdoors, and even to cook food.
  • Since Solar Energy is becoming more popular, its worldwide demand currently is greater than the amount that is being produce.

Figure 4 - Excess electricity is sold to the electricity grid – Feed-in Tariff


Figure 5 - Residential electricity cost


Advantages of Solar Energy:

  • The world’s supply of fossil fuels – petroleum, coal, and natural gas- is being depleted due to constant use, and they are not renewable – meaning can’t be made again.
  • Solar energy is completely renewable, abundant, clean and environmental friendly –free from harmful emissions, which improves the air quality, and helps ease demand on the power grid.
  • Harnessing solar power can reduce the electric bill.
  • The cost of solar power technology is improving consistently, due to the popularity, and competitive market.
  • The solar panels are modular, and need minimum maintenance once they are installed.
  • There are federal, state and local rebates and incentives which will reduce the costs and maximize the investment. Please see the Energy Rebates section for more information.
  • Businesses and homeowners are eligible to get paid back for unused electricity through the California Feed-in Tariff, which allows eligible customer-generators to enter into 10, 15, or 20 year contract with their utilities to sell the electricity produced by small renewable energy systems.
  • The solar energy reduces the annual operating cost and increases the value of the property.
  • Research done by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found strong evidence that homes with photovoltaic (PV) systems have greater value over homes without solar systems. +LBNL Solar Home Sales News Release


Types of Solar Energy

Solar power is derived from the sun, which is processed through an interactive solar panel system to generate electricity. The two main types of solar power used in Los Angeles are Thermal Solar Energy and Direct Solar Energy.

The thermal solar energy method focuses sunlight on a particular vessel to raise the temperature of the solution inside. While the direct solar energy method uses photovoltaic cells, which are electronically linked, produces electricity as the sun touches the cells’ photovoltaic effect.


Different Solar Systems:

  • Solar Heat Collectors:
    Solar Heat collectors actively gather and store the solar energy. The system is mounted on the rooftops to collect solar energy for space cooling, space heating, and water heating. Most are large, flat boxes painted black on the inside and covered with glass. In the most common design, pipes in the box carry liquids that transfer the heat from the box into the building. This heated liquid—usually a water-alcohol mixture to prevent freezing—is used to heat water in a tank or is passed through radiators that heat the air. The system can also power a cooling system, by pulling moisture out of the air in desiccant evaporators.
  • Solar Thermal Concentrating:
    By using mirrors and lenses to concentrate the rays of the sun, solar thermal systems can produce very high temperature. The intense heat can be used in industrial applications or to produce electricity. One of the greatest benefits of large scale solar thermal systems is the possibility of storing the sun’s heat energy for later use.
  • Photovoltaic (PV)
    Certain materials give off a spark of electricity when struck with sunlight. This photoelectric effect was used to produce solar cells that could convert sunlight into electricity, and were called photovoltaic cells (PV).

    Most PV systems consist of individual square cells averaging about four inches on a side. Alone, each cell generates very little power (less than two watts), so they are often grouped together as modules. Modules are grouped into larger panels encased in glass or plastic to provide protection from the weather, and these panels, are either used as separate units or grouped into for larger arrays.

Figure 6 - Solar heating and cooling system

Figure 7 - Mirror and lenses to generate solar energy

Figure 8 - PV system

Innovative processes and designs are continually reaching the market and helping drive down the price of solar energy. Some of the key reasons are:
- Decline in manufacturing costs, and booming global market of PV
- Large scale investments.
- And government incentives

Figure 9 - In 1998 the cost per installed watt of solar panel was $10.87, by the end of 2010 it was close to $7.


Sitting Consideration for Solar Panels
The positioning of the solar panels is the key To maximize the efficiency, and energy output. Solar panels should be exposed to as much direct sunlight as possible over the course of a day, and avoid places where they will be shaded partially or completely during the day.

Newer solar technologies advertise the ability to generate electricity when shaded, or even at night, however, the fact is that energy output from the PV panels is directly proportional to the amount of sunlight shining on them. The more direct sunlight, the more electricity.

  • South Facing Solar Panels:
    Very often solar panels are seen on rooftops; this can be a great place to install them, however the number one consideration needs to be to ensuring that the PV solar panels are facing south. South facing solar panels will have more sunlight on them all day, as long as trees or other objects don’t obstruct them. In addition the angle the solar panels are installed at along the horizontal axis needs to be taken into consideration.
  • Off-roof solar Panel:
    When a rooftop solar panel installation is not an option, you should consider either a stationary or a moving frame (called a tracker).

Stationary frames work well because they can be optimally positioned to capture the greatest amount of sunlight over the course of a day. Trackers, however, are the ultimate in efficiency.
They constantly rotate and adjust to follow the sun through the sky. This ensures that the solar panels are directly facing the sun at all times.

  • Solar Shingles:
    Solar shingles, also called photovoltaic shingles are solar cells designed to look like conventional shingles while harnessing the solar energy to generating electricity.

The interlocking mechanism of solar tiles, offers an almost seamlessly blend with the traditional roofing material.
The solar roofing, come in different styles, materials and colors to suite any particular need of the homeowner, and match the architecture of the house.

The house will have a much aesthetic value than with solar panels mounted on top of the roof. Different models of shingles have different mounting requirements.

Figure 10 - Tracker

Figure 11 - Solar-roof

Figure 12 - Solar shingles


Government Policies and Incentives:

California Solar Initiative (CSI) is to generate 3,000 megawatts of solar electricity by 2017. To support CSI, renewable, cleaner energy, and to help save the environment from greenhouse gasses, the state government is offering financial incentives for those who install photovoltaic systems.

The CSI rebates program pays solar consumers an incentive based on system performance. The rebates vary according to the utility territory, system size, and customer class and performance and installation factors, and are declining over time.

The CSI Thermal Program offers cash rebates up to $1,875 for solar water heating systems on single- family homes. For more information on CSI Rebates megawatts worth of rebate, please refer to California Solar Initiative – Statewide Trigger Tracker chart.

California New Solar Homes Partnership is part of the comprehensive CSI program, and provides financial incentives to homebuilders, encouraging energy efficient solar designs to save homeowners money and protect environment. The solar homes are highly energy efficient that uses photovoltaic (PV) modules to generate electricity from the sun.

Visit the following websites for additional information on federal, state, local, and utility incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency:

For Federal incentives visit DSIRE-Federal, and for California incentives and policies visit DSIRE-California. (Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency)

Go Solar California is a key California government website dedicated to solar policies, incentives and rebates.

The ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Energy helping the consumers to save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Energy efficient choices can save families about a third of their energy bills. There is a Federal Tax Credit for the consumers for energy efficiency, which pays up to 30% of the cost of Solar Water Heater installation without upper limit, and will expire on December 31, 2016.

Energy Upgrade California is offering up to $8,000 cash back in rebates and incentives towards home energy efficiency upgrades made by participating contractors.

Southern California Edison’s program Net Energy Metering is designed to benefit the customers who have eligible renewable energy generators which is connected to SCE’s system through a bi-directional meter, and will receive credit for the surplus electricity on their electric bill.

There are number of online calculators available to help the home and business owners to calculate their estimate costs, and paybacks and help them to make a decision about going solar.


Assembly Bill 920

As a result of Assembly Bill 920 (signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2009), customers who produce their own electricity- solar, wind, or hybrid - are eligible for special metering and billing - Net Energy Metering (NEM)- which allows the customer to receive financial credit for power generated by their onsite system and fed back to the utility.

All customers who qualify as net surplus generators on or after January 1, 2011 are eligible to receive payment for their surplus electricity at the end of their Relevant Period. (AB920)

Please visit Southern California Edison’s website for the latest rates and prices on Net Surplus Compensation.


Financial Credits

Lower Utility Bill:

Utility rates are high, and have continued to increase at an average of 6.7% every year, for the last 30 years, according to CPUC “Electric Rate Compendium” 2001.

Fortunately, we have a choice to lower our utility costs. Electricity derive from solar power has the potential to significantly lower utility cost, and save money.

Solar energy is a great source of renewable energy, and one day it will help us to power our homes and free ourselves from greenhouse gas emissions produced from burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity.


Return on Investment:

Solar energy supplies just a very small portion of the global energy; however there is an exponential growth in solar consumption. In 2011 across the globe nearly 55.7 TWh of solar power was installed. The solar energy is becoming popular, and growing at a stunning pace, while the prices of the solar panels are dropping dramatically.

One of the reasons that the solar power usage is booming is because governments are subsidizing the costs of solar energy as an economic incentives, which is part of the Economic Recovery Act.

Also solar homes are becoming more attractive, for every month they save money. In markets with the most costly power such as California, the homeowners are expected a return on solar investments of 15% or more per year. (Bloomberg Business Magazine)

Figure 14 - Based on home in San Diego CA with $150/month electric bill. System financed with 25-year home equity loan at 3% interest.

In states with robust solar incentive programs such as California or New Jersey- which require utilities to pay clean-energy producers, and offer rebate programs at the municipal level, the solar installation pay off time can be much faster, and can have positive return of investment.

Figure 13 - There is a parabolic growth in solar consumption.

Figure 14 - Based on home in San Diego CA with $150/month electric bill. System financed with 25-year home equity loan at 3% interest.


City of Calabasas General Plan on Sustainability and Renewable Energy:

The General Plan of the City of Calabasas has adopted sustainability policies and programs to emphasize environmental concerns and minimize City’s contribution to global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emission; promoting energy efficiency and use of alternative and/or renewable energy resources.

Good air quality is important for the health of those who work and live in Calabasas. Being located at the northwestern boundary of the South Coast Air Basin, Calabasas is a route for air exchange between the coastal and inland valley areas, and the air pollution produced by activities in Calabasas is carried downwind to the Basin area. Therefore it is city’s desire and its obligation to reduce the air pollution and contribute to the improvement of regional air quality.s

Thus, actions taken by the City to reduce air pollution will help reduce the City’s contribution to global climate change. This is consistent with Assembly Bill 32, which calls for a greenhouse gas emissions cap for 2020 that would reduce such emissions to 1990 levels (essentially a 25% reduction below 2005 emission level).

To address air quality issues in southern California, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has developed an Air Quality Management Plan(AQMP). The policies in this Air Quality section of the Conservation Element reflect Calabasas’ intent to implement the provisions of this regional plan at the local scale.

Minimize emissions of air pollutants, including greenhouse gases, generated by electricity and natural gas consumption through implementation of the energy conservation policies in Energy Resources section of General Plan. The objective is to minimize per capita consumption of non-renewable energy resources within Calabasas and incorporation of best management practices for energy conservation, and increase use of alternative sources of energy.

Reducing the amount of non-renewable energy consumed by Calabasas residents and businesses will reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and will allow many users to save money over time through reduced utility costs. Opportunities for the City to promote energy conservation are available at the community/neighborhood, site, and building design scales.

One of the reasons that the solar power usage is booming is because governments are subsidizing the costs of solar energy as economic incentives, as part of the Economic Recovery Act.

Also solar homes are becoming more attractive by saving money every month. In markets with the most costly power such as California, the homeowners are expected a return on solar investments of 15% or more per year. (Bloomberg Business Magazine)


City of Calabasas Permit & Fee Requirements:

For permit requirements please visit city’s Building and Safety Division.


Calabasas Building and Safety Fees:

Under 10KW Systems:
Plan Check: $117.00
Permit: $174.00
  10 to 30KW System:
Plan Check: $647.00
Permit: $397.00
  Over 30KW System:
Plan Check: $979.00
Permit: $780.00


Energy Rebates

Energy Upgrade California

Learn more at www.solarsantamonica.com/energyupgrade

www.sce.com (Southern California Edison)

Natural Gas
www.socalgas.com (Southern California Gas Company)

National Incentive Database

The North Carolina Solar Center tracks incentives offered across the country for renewables and energy efficiency. This is a great resource for doing research on what’s available around the United States.
More info at www.dsireusa.org


Install Solar
Green Building Initiatives
Carbon Footprint Calculator
Feed-in Tariff Program Material
Eligible Home Upgrades:
Energy Upgrade California is now offering up to $8,000 cash back in rebates and incentives for permanent, single-family home energy improvements (energy efficiency upgrade) made by participating contractors. Los Angeles County homeowners may qualify for incentives and rebates of up to $4,500 for making energy-efficient upgrades
Participating Contractors
American Solar Energy Society

For additional information please contact Alex Farassati, Environmental Services Manager at 818-224-1600.

City of Calabasas © 2017