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Solar Cells

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Solar Energy (Photovoltaics and Solar Thermal Panels)

  • Environmental and Human Health Benefits
  • Regulations and Guidelines
  • Performance
  • Cost
  • Vendors and Availability
  • Resources and Websites – Read about Solar Santa Monica in this section!

Although solar energy has been around at least as long as the City of Santa Monica, solar power has become a viable energy source only in the last couple decades.  Photovoltaic systems, also known as solar electricity systems, are rapidly expanding in popularity due to Statewide incentives, increasing energy prices and the need for cleaner, dependable and local energy production.

Rooftop solar cell arrays are becoming
a common sight in Santa Monica

Environmental and Human Health Benefits

Solar technologies reduce the thirst for fossil fuels for energy generation, thereby reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and their associated impacts on the environment and human health…in other words, on us.

Regulations and Guidelines

Installation of solar technologies requires plan check approval by the Building and Safety Division of the City. Fees for solar electric and solar hot water systems are waived to encourage adoption of these technologies.  Plans can often be checked over the counter.  An ordinance requires the use of solar hot water systems for new (heated) pools in most building types in Santa Monica.


Solar thermal technologies are a reliable primary heating source for domestic hot water in homes and businesses in Santa Monica. A good design target is to meet 80% of hot water requirements with solar heating. Still-working systems installed in the 1970s and 1980s attest to the reliability and applicability of this technology in our climate. 

Solar electric (photovoltaic) systems can also provide up to 100% of the electric energy needs in a home or business.  High performance houses and buildings that are built efficiently, or ones that are retrofitted with efficient systems, can meet virtually all their energy needs from on-site renewable sources. These homes and buildings are termed “net zero” since they effectively produce all the energy they need, requiring zero additional energy to operate.


Solar thermal systems cost between $6,000 and $10,000 or more but can offset up to 80% of gas used for water heating. The returns on invested dollars are often the same or better than photovoltaic system investments.

Solar electric (photovoltaic) systems have an initial cost of around $8,000 to $10,000 per kilowatt (kW) installed. A typical home would require between 2 and 6 kW.  Rebates from the California Energy Commission (CEC) vary between residential and commercial applications, but can offset between 1,550 and $2,200 per kW of installed solar photovoltaics. Along with federal income tax credits offered through the end of this calendar year, the out of pocket costs can be reduced to between $2,000 and $6,000 per kilowatt, which allow returns on investment of between 5% and 50% !

Vendors and Availability

There are many major manufacturers and installers of solar technologies.  Visit the Green Building Resource Center at 2218 Main Street to acquire a comprehensive list of local solar installers, or stop by the Solar Santa Monica office at 1212 5th Street for their list of preferred providers and to sign up for their free program.

Resources and Websites

Solar Santa Monica  Residents and businesses save money by installing low-cost energy efficiency items along with non-polluting, reliable solar systems on their roofs.  The vision is to provide all our city’s power needs by 2020. City staff help those unfamiliar with the process of making a home efficient and solar-ready. Visit their website to learn more, or stop by their offices at 1212 5th Street, First Floor.

Green Building Resource Center - located right here in Santa Monica at 2218 Main Street, sponsored by the City, and operated by Global Green USA.

American Solar Engineering Society  This link will take you to a group of really smart people that deal with issues of solar power and engineering.  Good stuff! 

National Renewable Energy Lab  A most informative website concerning solar power and other clean and renewable energy sources. 

Solar Living Institute  Promoting sustainable living through inspirational environmental education. 

Real Goods  This website has a diverse set of products, such as ovens, radios, backpacks and many other items that utilize photovoltaic technology.



Last updated: Tuesday, 06/15/2010
City of Santa Monica © 2017

Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment
1685 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90401 · (310) 458-2213 · TTY (310) 917-6626