‹ Older | San Francisco Sets $20M–$30M Goal for Berkeley-style Solar Loan Program San Francisco Sets $20M–$30M Goal for Berkeley-style Solar Loan Program | Newer ›
The city of San Francisco is copying Berkeley's first-of-its-kind program to finance solar rooftop projects via property taxes — but it wants to go a lot bigger than the pioneer city across the Bay. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said the city plans to disburse $20 million to $30 million in loans to home and business owners by the end of 2009, in a program modeled after the one Berkeley launched last year (see Berkeley to Launch Solar Financing Program). But San Francisco's program will provide a lot more money than Berkeley's initial $1.5 million — and it will extend to a wider range of home renewable power and energy efficiency projects, Newsom said Tuesday at the Green:Net 09 conference in San Francisco. "We're going to take Berkeley's idea to a whole 'nother level," Newsom said. "And we're going to extend it beyond solar energy" to include things like replacing old boilers with more energy efficient models and installing geothermal heating pumps or co-generation systems, he said. That's a substantial widening of the net for loan applications, one that could tie into the city's recently announced plan to set up incentives for retrofitting existing buildings for energy efficiency. San Francisco is seeking proposals from banks that will structure the loans to be backed by property tax revenues, and expects to have those proposals in by April 5, Newsom added. Berkeley initially had some trouble getting banks to back the concept, which allows home and business owners to pay the city back through property taxes over 20 years, including interest at rates locked in through a special tax district created for the program. That led Berkeley to start out with a $1.5 million pilot program, with finance provided by Oakland, Calif-based Renewable Funding. A state law passed in July gave other California cities the ability to provide low-interest solar-panel loans to homeowners and small businesses (see California Cities to Offer Solar Loan Program). San Francisco's loan program would work alongside its solar incentive program, Newsom said. The city has set aside between $2 million and $5 million annually for 10 years to provide incentives of $3,000 to $6,000 for a home solar power system and up to $10,000 for one on a commercial property (see San Francisco Solar Incentives Become Official). Newsom said Tuesday that the program had led to a 300-percent increase in the number of applications to install rooftop solar systems in the eight months it had been in effect (see SF Solar Incentives Boost New Installations). In other green news, Newsom said the city was looking at a project by Cisco Systems that is aimed at providing an online map that can show an individual's greenhouse gas emission contributions throughout the day. Newsom didn't offer many other details on the so-called "eco-map," except to plug it as the next big thing in providing people information to help them take personal responsibility to tackle climate change at home. "I don’t want to over-promise it, but I’ve never seen anything like it," he said. According to minutes from an October meeting of the city and county's commission on the environment, the project is a collaboration of the cities of San Francisco, Amsterdam and Seoul that will map the cities by rooftop and measure factors such as how many cars — and bicycles — are owned by each household, which homes have solar panels, which homes recycle, and other factors.