Southern California is known for its great weather and sunny days. That sunshine can be converted directly into electricity to power your home and reduce or eliminate completely your electricity bill! The established technology used to do this is called Photovoltaics, also known as solar cells.
More good news: The California Energy Commission is offering cash rebates on eligible grid-connected renewable energy electric-generating systems through its Emerging Renewables Program. Through this program, the Energy Commission provides funding to offset the cost of purchasing and installing new renewable energy systems using emerging renewable technologies.
For Photovoltaics, the State will provide a rebate of $2.80 per watt. A typical installation would cost anywhere from $8 to $10 dollars a watt so the rebate is roughly 30%.
You can estimate what an installation would cost you by adding up the kWh (kiloWatts hours) usage amounts from your electricity bill for an entire year. Then, divide that by 1,350 kWh and you'll end up with a number that represents your system requirements in kiloWatts. For example, say your annual usage is 6,500 kWh. Divide by 1,350 kWh to get 4.82 kW. Lets assume you find a contractor willing to install the system for $8 per watt. Your total installation cost before rebates would be 4.82kw times 8 or $38,560. California will rebate you 4.82kW times $2.80 or $13,580. Net cost is $24,980.
Keep in mind that you can divide that cost in two if you install only enough solar cells to supply half your electricity. In either case, you'll still be connected to the utility company and they will supply you power to make up for any shortfall. Should you produce more electricity than you can consume, that surplus is sold back to the utility and your meter will run backwards!
When looking at the economics, consider that solar cells are an exceptional amenity should you decide to sell your home someday. Look at a solar cell installation much as you would an upgraded kitchen or in-ground pool; your home becomes more valuable and desirable.