Kern County is known for a handful of billion dollar industries. From the oil and gas industry to the agricultural industry, Kern County is a big player. Wind power is even a billion dollar industry, quite visible from the drive through Tehachapi where thousands of turbines turn. Today we are seeing the landscape change further as Kern County leads in solar development. There are significant factors driving the solar revolution in Kern County.
Location is the primary force behind the solar boom in our region. High energy costs are a direct result of being centered in one of America’s most expensive states for energy: California. The desert climate of Kern County makes energy use inevitably high during summer months. Unlike the coastal regions of California, desert climates see significant annual cost increases due to utility rate structures. The lack of a competitive market for utilities makes for very little choice for residents and businesses to avoid high cost energy. Certainly, many residents live in either the discomfort of a hot house or with a substantially high electric bill. It’s an uncomfortable choice.
This is where solar power comes in. Location may hinder the residents and business owners but it also provides an opportunity not available in coastal climates or other parts of the country. We have the land, space and rooftops to make up for it with solar power. This is evident in the fields of solar panels accompanying farm land, covering parking lots and gracing roof tops. California’s regulations may lead to high energy costs but they also allow for net metering, essentially using the utility as a battery. The desert location may create high bills but it also provides for
great solar power production with the strong intensity of the sun and longer, clearer days.
Residents and business owners have become accustomed to ever-increasing utility costs with continuous restructuring of the rates and tiers. More recent developments in utility tier structures have created a Conservation Adjustment Incentive. While it operates as an incentive to encourage lower energy use by discounting the lowest tiers for those who can stay in them, it creates a penalty or disincentive for using energy necessary to operate or live in a desert climate. It is nearly impossible for residents in this desert climate to stay in the lower tiers, which effectively penalizes residents for living in the desert. Residents are starting to get notices from the utility companies labeling them as excessive users of energy. While solar is booming now, there will be even more significant financial reason to switch form utility power to solar power in the coming years.
Going solar has never been easier with an abundance of funding options; however, that landscape is changing fast and record low prices on solar equipment and installation. Companies like Energy Independence Group specialize in customizing projects to make any type of installation possible but to also make the investment in solar power itself easy and affordable. Often, clients are able to either own or lease a solar system with zero down and see immediate savings.
With federal tax incentives, businesses and home owner’s see an even faster payback and even greater savings. There are few opportunities to turn a bill into an asset. Solar is one of the best things to happen to Kern County. We may suffer from hot days, bad air and bad deals, but the ingenuity of our area is changing that landscape by making life more comfortable and affordable with solar energy.
About the Author: Les Mood is a finance and business graduate of Cal State, Bakersfield and co-founder of Energy Independence Group located in Bakersfield, CA. Visit www.eig.solar/about for more information.