Former Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown and other local elected officials joined local high school students, business leaders and workers, renewable energy advocates, and community leaders to celebrate achieving one million solar roofs across California.
In 2006, then-Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Million Solar Roofs Initiative into law, which set a goal of building one million solar energy systems on homes, schools, farms, and businesses throughout the state. In 2019, the idea that once made international headlines for its “wow factor” is now a reality.
“California is leading the way to a clean energy future,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “13 years ago, we set a huge goal: to build a million solar roofs in our state by 2019. Republicans and Democrats came together behind a policy that would be successful years after we all left office – it wouldn’t be ready for our re-election campaigns – because we understood that big, worthwhile goals were more important than politics. Today, we celebrate the vision and the hardworking Californians that made a million solar roofs a reality."
As they celebrated the one million solar roofs milestone, solar advocates kept their focus on the future with a call for one million solar-charged batteries by 2025. With today’s batteries, homeowners and businesses can store solar energy for use after sundown or during a blackout. This smooths out prices, takes pressure off the electric grid, and gives consumers a degree of independence previously unheard of.
“Governor Schwarzenegger had real vision when he set this audacious goal back in 2006 and it took real determination to achieve it,” said Governor Brown. “This is a major milestone, but don’t get too comfortable, we have a long way to go to decarbonize. Let’s get to work.”
The benefits of the Million Solar Roofs Initiative exceeded expectations. The initiative’s goal was to build 3 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar throughout the state. The program met its goal in 2015, ahead of schedule, and the market has continued to grow. Today, California consumers have installed nearly 9 gigawatts of local solar energy, three-fold the original goal, thanks to the successful transformation brought about by the Million Solar Roofs Initiative launched in 2006 with Senate Bill 1, authored by former state senator Kevin Murray (D-Culver City). Senator Murray recalled the three years it took to pass SB1 and thanked Governor Schwarzenegger for being able to work across the aisle to set such an ambitious goal.
“We promised that 3 billion dollars would create 1 million roofs and 3,000 megawatts. And we got 1 million roofs and almost 9,000 megawatts. Again, we under-promised & over-delivered,” said Governor Schwarzenegger about California’s climate leadership.
Those 9 gigawatts of solar energy—the size equivalent of six large natural power plants—generate more than 13 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity each year avoiding 22 million tons of CO2, 16,000 tons of smog-forming pollutants, over 350 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and bypassing expensive and aging utility infrastructure.
The Million Solar Roofs Initiative was also the catalyst for significant job growth in an industry that supports hundreds of local small businesses and over 77,000 jobs—more people than employed in the state’s five largest utilities combined. Jobs are found in every region of the state from Kern County to Crescent City.
“I am a Kern County local boy where growing up there were two job opportunities: farming and oil drilling,” said Troy Carroll, former oil industry worker now operations manager at CED Greentech, a solar equipment distribution company in Bakersfield. “A few years ago, facing the ups and downs of the oil business, I was looking for a more steady and promising job to support my four kids and keep me close to home. I found that job in solar. This is the future.”
California’s sunny Central Valley is playing an outsized role in the state’s solar success story. Cities like Fresno, Bakersfield, Clovis, Visalia, Madera, Hanford, Tulare, Merced, and Porterville rank in the top tenth-percentile of California cities by the number of solar roofs—all of them outperforming their per-capita population rankings. Clovis, for example, is the state’s 60th most populous city but holds the 6th highest number of solar roofs at 10,259—more than San Francisco, Oakland, and Long Beach.
“I always said that the Central Valley was the ‘abs’ of California because of the important role it plays for the rest of the state,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.
During the celebration, local high school students, solar workers, and environmental activists presented Governor Schwarzenegger with an award for his role as a champion for solar energy and climate activism. Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Kevin Murray were also presented with awards for their key roles in reaching this goal.
Governor Schwarzenegger ended his remarks by using the milestone as motivation for students to dream big and set ambitious goals.