Escondido is fast becoming a “solar city,” one that, according to San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) ranks second only to San Diego in the number of Net Energy Metering solar customers.
As Escondido prepares to make an ambitious bid to be part of a consortium of cities that would welcome a second Amazon headquarters (see story this page) the city is already part of a high-tech revolution that is welcoming solar power in a big way, with the emphasis on residential customers versus commercial accounts.
According to Jon Britton, communications manager for SDG&E “There are 7,663 Net Energy Metering (NEM) solar customers in the City of Escondido, generating approximately 52.2 megawatts of energy. The City of Escondido ranks second in SDG&E’s service territory for NEM customers behind the City of San Diego.”
And, of course, in March SDG&E unveiled the world’s largest lithium ion battery array—in Escondido’s industrial zone. The 30 megawatt (MW) energy storage facility is capable of storing up to 120 megawatt hours of energy, the energy equivalent of serving 20,000 customers for four hours. Such storage helps solar, which obviously can’t generate any power at night.
According to Bill Martin, Escondido’s director of community development, “Our records show that 4,654 residential photovoltaic systems have been installed in the city. Only 60 businesses have installed solar. Our current demographics show there are 27,774 single-family homes and 17,045 apartment units in the city.”
He added, “The permits-to-units comparison is a little bit apples to oranges because one residential solar permit could be a single-family and the next could cover multiple apartment units.”
Some developers are starting to build homes with solar, and many are offering solar as part of the total package. Martin sees this as a growing trend, rather than just a trickle.
“There is definitely a growing trend and yearly volumes tend to reflect the level of subsidies homeowners are eligible for. One new trend we’re seeing now is the large homebuilding companies including them on all their new homes as a standard feature,” he said.
This trend started in the last year or so, with Lennar, KB Homes and Shea Homes building their neighborhoods in the northern part of the city, said Allen. “My staff says they have been installing the panels before delivering the home to their customers, but it may not be on all homes. Some may be offering it as an option to the buyer.”