The state of California pays $3.30 a watt for solar panels to power common areas – i.e., parking lots and hallways – and $4.00 a watt for solar panels to provide power to individual apartments, says Richard Raeke, director of project finance at Borrego Solar.
The subsidies can be determined by square footage if the complex is on a centralized master power meter. If 20 percent of a complex's electrical load gets consumed by the common areas, 20 percent of the rebate is at the $3.30 rate and the rest goes at $4.00.
We're really looking at 40 to 60 percent of the cost," he said.
By contrast, standard homeowners get $1.55 a watt in California.
The state has also created a solar subsidy for low-income individual homes that range from $7 to $5.75. At $7 a watt, the subsidy would cover more than the
cost of installing a solar system now, which can be put in for just under $7 a watt. Nonetheless, the building must be occupied by residents with federal income tax liability ranging from $2,000 to zero.
California set aside $108 million for the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program as part of its comprehensive solar initiative. The state's public utility commission fleshed out the program in November 2007. However, it only began accepting applications somewhat recently. The money will be spent over the next four years.