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The California Solar Initiative

At a solar power conference held in 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger unveiled the “Go Solar California” program. With the goal of installing 3,000 megawatts of solar energy systems and 585 million therms of gas-displacing solar hot water systems, Go Solar California called for a decade of support for solar and over $2.8 billion for incentivizing solar power.

In order to stimulate the solar market, the California Public Utilities Commission developed and implemented the California Solar Incentive (CSI) rebate program.

What is the California Solar Incentive program?

  • The goal is to reach 3,000 megawatts of solar capacity by 2016
  • Roughly $2 billion of incentives for new household solar installations
  • Funds solar on existing homes, existing or new commercial, agricultural, government and non-profit buildings (both PV and thermal generating technologies)

Do I Qualify?

  • Do you buy electricity from PG&E, SCE, or SDG&E?
  • Does your roof get unobstructed sunlight from 11 a.m. until sunset?


How much are these incentives on average?

At the initial incentive level, the savings are estimated to be around $2,200 for a typical residential solar water heating system backed up with natural gas ($1,400 in the case the system has an electric back-up). This means the CSI rebates could cover up to 30% of your solar hot water system (without considering additional state and federal rebates)! The incentives can be higher in the case of low-income households.

What do I need to do in order to benefit from the rebates?

Normally, you would have to find yourself the system that suits your needs, contact an installer, apply for rebates, and finally schedule the installation.

Fortunately, SunMaxx makes this procedure even easier for you. All you have to do is call our number and speak with one of our representatives. We will work with you to determine your solar needs and take care of the technicalities and logistics. SunMaxx Solar designs and manufactures the industry’s leading solar thermal hot water and space heating systems. This, combined with almost a decade of experience in the sector, guarantees one of the highest customer satisfaction rates among competitors. Our team of engineers will work to design the perfect system for your house or business and help you arrange the installation with one of our SunMaxx Certified installers. At this point, all that is left for you to do call us and file for the applicable rebates and incentives!

How To Apply For CSI Rebates With SunMaxx

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How are rebates allocated?

The California Solar Initiative program serves as an integral part of the Go Solar California campaign, offering solar rebates to customers in California’s investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). The California Solar Initiative, managed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), follows a strict “Incentive Step Level” (displayed below).

CSI Program Buydown Chart

The financial incentives are given based on the expected performance of a system, which derives from the size, angle and location of the system. However, the incentive level available to a given project depends upon the currently available incentives given by the utilities provider, which varies depending upon one’s economic status. For example, once the maximum number of megawatts in step 10 is achieved within a particular customer class, the Program Manager will “step down” to step 9 and begin offering the corresponding incentive level for that class.

What are the CSI incentive types?

  1. the incentives can either be Expected Performance-Based Buydown or Performance-Based Incentive. The former is designed for systems of 30kW or less, which makes it ideal for households and small businesses. The incentives are paid per Watt based on the expected performance of the system and consist in a one-time upfront payment.

Why should I opt for solar hot water vs. PV?

Briefly speaking, solar hot water is more cost efficient in cutting your utility bills. Therefore, you can achieve considerable savings with a significantly lower initial investment. There are 3 main reasons why solar hot water is the preferred choice in your case:

  1. Solar hot water collectors are significantly more efficient that PV panels (70-90% efficiency on average vs. 15-18% of PV)
  2. Solar hot water systems are dramatically cheaper to install. The cost of a solar hot water system for a typical 4 people household ranges between $4,000 and $8,000. In comparison, a PV system of similar capacity costs between $16,000 and $20,000.
  3. The CSI funds for PV systems rebates are coming to end and the program is currently not accepting any new applicant.

For a visual comparison, check out our infographic.

INFORGRAPHIC: Why Choose Solar Hot Water Over PV

For more detailed information about the advantages of solar hot water compared to PV, check out this link:

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