Municipal Property Tax Financing for Solar Energy and Efficiency – Sonoma County, CA

On March 25, 2009, Sonoma County became the first county in California to pursue public financing of distributed solar energy and energy efficiency improvements under AB 811.

Sonoma County established the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP) to provide homeowners with access to long-term loans at below market interest rates to install solar panels or make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.  With no upfront costs, the loans are paid back via an additional assessment on the homeowners’ property taxes.  The term of the loan depends on the amount borrowed (5-10 years for loans less than $5,000, 10-20 years for loans greater than $5.000).

All nine cities in Sonoma County have signed on to participate in the program.  The County has authorized $45 million in revenue bonds to finance the program.  As of July 2009 the program has accepted 317 applications for approximately $12.8 million.  The County reports that solar panels have been the predominant improvement type.

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