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Long Beach Community Solar Program Extended

Long Beach homeowners are so hungry for solar power that they successfully lobbied leading installer SolarCity to extend its Community Solar Program to February 29. Not to be left in the shade, Signal Hill residents are also eligible to participate.

In all 307 Long Beach and Signal Hill residents have attended free solar seminars outlining SolarCity's Community Solar Program, which enables residents and businesses who band together to purchase solar power systems at deep discounts. The residents in the program are inches away from the goal at which time the entire community will receive up to 30% off of what they would pay as if they purchased as individuals.

"The people in our community care deeply about our environment and share a vision to make a difference," said Mary Barton, one of more than two dozen residents who have already purchased installations and a champion of the local effort. "At the same time, we want to save money on our electric bills. This Community Solar Program enables us to do both."

The local acceptance of solar power reflects a nationwide trend. Residential photovoltaic installations more than quadrupled to 11,600 between 2002 and 2007, according to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

Still, purchasing solar power now makes the most economic sense because state rebates on the systems are rapidly declining. Federal tax credits are due to expire on Dec. 31, 2008. With both incentives in place, the return on investment is around 10 years.

In addition, the City of Long Beach announced this week that it has reduced its permitting fee by more than 20 percent for photovoltaic systems of up to 6 kilowatts. The fee is now $514.01.

If 100 residents participate in SolarCity's program, Long Beach is likely to increase its number of single-family home installations roughly eightfold over last year. This would annually displace 150,000 pounds of carbon dioxide -- the chief global warming gas -- which is equal to the weight of 300 sport utility vehicles each year!

Like Barton, who will sharply lower her electric bill with solar power, any Long Beach or Signal Hill homeowner who requests a free solar evaluation by Feb. 29 is eligible for the Community Solar Program.

Upcoming Long Beach workshops will be held Saturday, Feb. 9, 3-4 p.m., at the Dana Branch Library, 3680 Atlantic Ave., 90807; and Tuesday, Feb 12, 6-7 pm, at the El Dorado Neighborhood Library, 2900 Studebaker Road, 90815. Signal Hill seminars will be announced shortly and listed on the SolarCity website:

SolarCity, founded in 2006 with backing from Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and chairman of Tesla Motors, has held a total of 22 Community Programs in Northern and Southern California, including programs in Malibu and Santa Monica.

Lyndon Rive, SolarCity Founder and Chief Executive Officer, praised the residents of Long Beach for uniting for cleaner air and noted how times have changed since petroleum was discovered in 1921 in Signal Hill, which eventually became one of the world's richest oil fields.

"These two communities are riding the very edge of the solar wave in Southern California," Rive said. "This will be a watershed program for the region."

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