Berkeley was first settled in 1776, and was first used mostly for farming. However, the city experienced significant growth after the University of California opened its first campus in 1868, and the Transcontinental Railroad reached the nearby port of Oakland in 1870. The growth of Berkeley was temporary halted after the earthquake of 1906, which destroyed around 80% of San Francisco. However, the city experienced significant growth again with World War II, during which many people moved to Berkeley to work in shipbuilding and other war-related industries. The city now has a population of over 120,000 and economic activity focuses on education and healthcare.
The University of California has taken a leadership role in driving forward the solar industry in Berkeley, with many significant projects and research programs:
Bayer, a global healthcare company, has also deployed solar panels for its manufacturing facility in Berkeley. The installation uses 1,000 solar panels and has a capacity of 295 kilowatts (kW).
Like many cities in the San Francisco Bay area, Berkeley is served by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and is subject to electricity rates exceeding 20 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). In addition, power bills tend to increase year after year – PG&E customers in the bay area saw their bills increase by around 5% between 2016 and 2017. Expensive electricity is bad news if you purchase all your energy from the local utility, but it also makes solar panels a lucrative investment because self-generated energy yields high savings!
If you live in Berkeley, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing is a great option to deploy a solar panel system, offering low interest rates and a repayment period of up to 20 years. Berkeley has a solid PACE program, with seven different financing providers in the city. If you own equity in your home and have a good credit record, you could also go solar with a low-interest and long-term home equity line of credit (HELOC) loan. Berkeley also participates in the GRID Alternatives program for low-income households, which provides grants to homeowners to deploy solar panels at a very low cost.
Keep in mind that all solar panel systems deployed before the end of 2019 are eligible for the Solar Investment Tax Credit. Home and business owners who deploy solar panels can claim 30% of their investment as a deduction from their federal tax burden during their next declaration. This benefit applies even if you finance the solar panel system with a loan, which means you can then use the tax credit to cover your loan payments!