In the same way that historic Californians caught gold fever, the city of Banning caught clean and green fever. But Banning’s solar knight didn’t come ’round the mountain on a noble steed; he came riding in on a stagecoach packed full of groundbreaking solar rebates and tax incentives. Stationed in southern California’s San Gorgonio Pass, this “Stagecoach Town, USA” continues to culture a prolific history in solar power.
Our story begins around the turn of the century, when a little-known statewide public benefit program required by AB 1890 immediately began changing the face of Banning. AB 1890 required that electric utilities collect money from Californians from energy efficiency and renewable projects, and began spreading that accumulated wealth among residents in the form of renewable energy efficiency incentives.
What Happens When a City Pays for Half of Your Solar Installation Costs?
…your town goes solar! The Banning Electric Department began offering rebates of $4 per watt for the purchase and installation of home solar power — up to 50 percent of total costs. Suddenly, solar panels started popping up on rooftops, buildings found themselves sealed tighter, green spaces and clean air began to spread and the sunlight in Banning somehow felt a bit brighter.
In 2002, the city began offering rebates for developers and homeowners that exceded the state’s Title 24 energy standards. Banning had five Energy Star rebate programs in place by 2002 as well, including one real crowd pleaser that offers rebates for purchase of energy efficient ar conditioning units. A rebate of up to $500 per ton is offered, depending on the unit’s efficiency rating.
Banning: Way Ahead of the Green Game
Indeed, the great solar city of Banning has become the foremost leader in solar power and energy efficiency in all of California, which is saying a lot considering California’s status as unrivaled national solar mecca. Banning was the first city to meet California’s renewable portfolio standard requiring an electric utilty provider supplies at least 20 percent of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2010. Banning accomplished that feat two years ahead of schedule in 2008, and is well on its way to achieving the longer-term goal of 33 percent reduction by 2020.
He may be on a stagecoach, but the city of Banning’s knight in solar armor is nothing to scoff at. In fact, Banning has become its own solar knight and, for its size, a role model to all of California. Banning shows what a determined city can do in a short time with an aggressive solar agenda. When the state of California told Banning to hand out $2 million for solar rebates, Banning handed out $2.5 million. When the people of Banning were told there were solar incentives to be had, the people bought them up faster than the rest of us could fathom. Already, Banning’s funding for solar power rebates is sold out through the summer of 2011.
The city of Banning may seem like the little guy, sandwiched between Palm Springs and mega-city Los Angeles, but there is nothing small about this city when it comes to solar power. A short 21st-century history has already become epic. As Banning’s version of the ol’time litany goes, when she comes around the mountain, she’ll be riding six solar panels when she comes.