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Calif. solar industry covers millionth rooftop, calls for 1 million batteries

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The sun illuminates solar panels installed atop a condominium in San Francisco, Calif.
Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

Thirteen years after former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law the Million Solar Roofs Initiative, the actor and politician joined with his successor, former Gov. Jerry Brown, and solar industry representatives in celebrating the state's achievement of that milestone.

"First it came as the idea of 100,000," Schwarzenegger said Dec. 12 during a celebration at a solar-powered high school in Clovis, Calif. "You know how politicians are. They want to pick little goals because they're doable. But I always tell them, doable goals don't make history."

In 2007, the effort grew into the $3.3 billion California Solar Initiative with the goal of installing 3,000 MW of solar photovoltaics, or PV, at homes, businesses and public institutions around the state.

As of Oct. 31, 2019, California's roughly 1 million behind-the-meter solar arrays totaled 8,730 MW of installed PV capacity, according to state statistics.

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By 2030, the state's cumulative distributed solar capacity could grow to between 19,900 MW and 26,700 MW, according to the California Energy Commission. Installations in the service territory of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., or PG&E, in the northern and central parts of the state account for the largest share of that estimate.

Citing PG&E's recent unprecedented precautionary power outages along with the need for energy storage to smooth variable solar production and wean California off natural gas, an industry trade group called for a new statewide target of 1 million distributed batteries at new and existing solar sites.

"The ability to store energy where it will be needed and ready for use when it is needed is a simple but revolutionary step forward," the California Solar & Storage Association said in a Dec. 12 report.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who authored a 2018 law that provided $800 million for distributed storage, is among the supporters of the proposal, a spokesperson said in a Dec. 13 email.