Electric car owners more apt to go solar—at least in California

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Electric car owners more apt to go solar—at least in CaliforniaEven though the pool of people who have received California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project is relatively small, the number of people that received the rebate and have also purchased photovoltaic systems is high. The nonprofit Center for Sustainable Energy California administers the state rebate program.

The high ownership level may in part be because of California’s time-of-use energy pricing system.

At 41 percent, ownership of photovoltaic arrays is particularly high among the 114 owners of the Nissan Leaf that have qualified for the $5,000 rebate (as of March 22). But, given the small number of adopters relative to the 37.3 million residents the U.S. Census counted in California, the figures are preliminary.

“There’s a lot of potential for the integration of electric vehicles and solar power. No one’s quite figured it out yet,” said Mike Ferry, transportation program manager for the center. “There are still a lot of variables, and I think we’ll see it play out over the next few years, but there is potential there and a tremendous amount of interest.”

Interest in solar of early electric vehicle adopters in California has been high, Ferry said.

“I think it [i.e., the interest] will continue to be very strong,” he said. “As we move forward past the early adopters, the interest of people who are thinking about electric vehicles and the interest in solar will also continue to be very strong.”

Under California’s energy scheme, prices rise during peak-use hours, and since utilities pay retail rates to net-metered customers, customers are paid more for energy produced during peak hours, which coincides with the production from solar panels.

The additional electricity used to recharge electric vehicles is generally used at night, when rates are lower. So even if they use more power than previously, the solar array benefits them more than it would a normal net-metered customer generator.

The rebate program, funded initially with about $9 million in appropriated funds in 2009, has issued 318 rebates since March 2010. Roughly 75 percent or $6.3 million remains in the fund.

“We expect this funding to go in 7 to 8 months,” Ferry said. But there is an additional $2 million available, bringing the total funding for the program to $11 million.

Pictured: Tesla’s Model S electric car.