SAN JOSE (KCBS) – California homeowners continue to install rooftop solar panels at high rates, this despite the state’s incentive program winding down.

According to a new state report, Californians installed enough panels to generate a record 391 megawatts of solar power in 2012, up 26 percent from 2011.

Once only affordable for the wealthy, Tom Werner, CEO of San Jose-based SunPower said that’s not the case anymore.

“Everybody’s participating. All income levels are participating in solar,” he said. “So what we see today is a broad distribution of people and demand is stronger than ever.”

California has nearly reached its goal of 1,750 new megawatts of power to be installed on residential and commercial roofs by 2016. That also means the California Public Utilities Commission’s California Solar Initiative, a rebate program for customers going solar, is slowly going away.

“Most of the money in that CSI for residential has gone away,” said Eric Wesoff, Editor-in-Chief of Greentech Media. “That sounds like bad news, but it is not. It’s good news.”

Wesoff said it’s actually good news because that means solar power is getting to a point where it doesn’t need incentives to be competitive.

California launched its solar effort in January 2007, putting $3.3 billion into the program. Since it launched, the average price of a rooftop solar installation has decreased by 32 percent.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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