San Diego County Go Solar Program

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San Diego County Go Solar Program

California is one of the leading states in the nation in terms of solar energy. So, how much do solar panels cost in California? The state is home to a wide range of local and state-level policies and initiatives designed to drive alternative energy adoption and grow solar energy in the Golden State. One such initiative available to residents in and around the San Diego area is the Go Solar San Diego program.

Here is everything you need to know about the program and how it works to bring solar energy to more people and places.

Program Overview

What is Go Solar San Diego County Program?

The Go Solar San Diego County program is a collaboration between the public and private sectors designed to make solar energy more affordable and accessible to all. The County of San Diego has partnered with the local commercial banking industry to provide access to financing for solar system installations and other improvements meant to improve energy efficiency. Qualified property owners can secure loans with favorable terms and rates in order to cover the cost of solar or other efficiency-minded upgrades. These loans are intended to broaden access to alternative energy and further the cause of energy independence in the San Diego area. Loan terms may vary depending on the individual applicant’s qualifications, the improvements or installations being made and the financial institution providing the loan. 

How does the Go Solar program work? How do I participate?

Applying to participate in the Go Solar program is a simple process. The following five steps should be completed in order to take part: 

1. Review these FAQs to familiarize yourself with the program.

2. Request written cost estimates for your planned project from at least three licensed contractors.

3. Contact one or more of the participating financial institutions. Each bank has its own loan process and terms. Submit a loan application at the institution of your choice.

4. Check with your local planning office and complete the paperwork for any permits your project may require. If you live in an unincorporated area within the county, contact the County of San Diego Department of Planning and Land Use for assistance.

5. If applicable, ensure that you are given a property tax exclusion for your installation. Most active solar energy systems are exempt from any increases in the assessed value of your property.

The San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk should automatically apply this exemption if your project qualifies.

Contact the office at 858-505-6262 for additional information.

How is eligibility for the program determined?

The program is open to all qualified property owners. However, successfully qualifying for a loan is contingent on a number of factors. Decisions on solar panel financing may depend on your credit history and score, the loan-to-value ratio of your property and other considerations. Each bank handles the decision process differently and may offer different terms and qualifications. Be sure to consult with the bank in question for specifics.

Which improvements can be purchased with this loan?

Financing through the Go Solar program may be used to pay for a variety of solar energy installations and other energy-efficient home improvements. Consult a participating bank for specific project approval. 

How do I determine my energy usage? Am I a good candidate for solar energy?

Solar energy and other efficiency upgrades are not right for every situation. For help with evaluating your energy usage or determining whether a solar system or other improvement is right for you, please check with the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE). CCSE is an invaluable resource that features assistance, workshops and other information for property owners considering sustainable energy projects.

Find out more at

What should I look for in a Contractor?

In order to comply with the program terms, you’ll need to obtain written project estimates from three or more licensed contractors. These contractors need to have a valid and current A, B, C-10 or C-46 license from the California Contractors State Licensing Board.

To learn more about contractor licenses, please visit 

Finding a Contractor

Where can I learn more about solar energy?

One of the best resources for learning about solar energy technology is the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE). CCSE offers advice and information for property owners, contractors and anyone else who is interested in exploring solar power. For more, check out: CCSE also offers workshops and outreach programs designed to educate and inform anyone who is considering solar energy.

A calendar of events can be found here

How do I locate qualified contractors?

Most contractors should possess one or more of the A, B, C-10 or C-46 licenses necessary to meet the Go Solar program’s requirements. You may find the information and tips available from the California Center for Sustainable Energy helpful in identifying suitable contractors. Visit their website for more information:

To learn more about contractor licenses and what they mean, visit the following link: 

Participating Financial Institutions

Which banks are taking part in the Go Solar program?

In order to broaden access to solar energy and other energy-efficient home improvements, the County of San Diego has established partnerships with a number of financial institutions. Though exact terms and conditions vary, each participating bank is offering favorable loans to qualified homeowners who are considering certain efficiency-related home improvement projects. Click here to see the full list of participating banks. 

What are the loan details?

There are no set terms for loans made through the Go Solar program. Interest rates, terms, conditions, and other details are set by the banks and may vary based on a number of factors. Contact a participating financial institution for more information. 

How do these loans compare to home equity loans or lines of credit?

Though they are broadly similar, the loans offered through the Go Solar program differ from home equity loans or lines of credit in a few key ways. First, the loan terms may be longer. Home equity loans often feature terms of seven years or less. Go Solar loans through some participating institutions may extend up to 20 years. Additionally, loans made through this program may have lower interest rates than comparable home equity loans. 

Can I repay my loan with my property taxes?

Your property tax bill currently cannot be used to cover loan repayment costs. However, that will soon change thanks to the CaliforniaFIRST program. This state program is part of California’s property assessed clean energy (PACE) initiative and it will make property tax bills eligible for use in covering loan payments. 

If you live in an unincorporated area, you may be eligible to secure financing through the CaliforniaFIRST program to cover the cost of solar and other energy-efficient home improvements. If you live in an incorporated city in the area, your eligibility will depend on whether your city has elected to participate in the program. You can contact city officials to verify participation. Alternatively, you can visit the CaliforniaFIRST website for a full list of participating cities: 

More information regarding eligibility and costs associated with the CaliforniaFIRST program is forthcoming. In the meantime, there is some information available on the following website: 

Are there other options for financial assistance with solar energy?

California is one of the most solar-friendly states in the nation. In addition to the San Diego County Go Solar program, you may also be eligible for incentives from the California Center for Sustainable Energy’s California Solar Initiative. The California Solar Initiative is a program that offers cash-back incentives for outfitting an existing home or business with a solar energy system.

For more details, visit the program website: Property owners may also be eligible for a variety of other rebates, tax breaks, and other incentives. A complete list of available programs can be found here: 

How can interested banks find out more about participating in the Go Solar program?

The Go Solar program is open to all financial institutions in the area.

For more information on participating in this voluntary program, call 619-531-5015 to reach the Treasury Investment Division of the Treasurer-Tax Collector.

Obtaining Permits

Do all solar energy system installations require a permit?

Yes. You should always check with your local city or county planning office to be sure that you meet the requirements for a solar system installation.

The County of San Diego Department of Planning and Land Use is responsible for handling these permit issues in the unincorporated areas of the County of San Diego. They can be reached by calling 1-888-267-8770. If you live in an incorporated city, check with your local municipal planning office before going ahead with a solar project. 

Are there fees and other costs associated with installing a solar energy system?

There is no building permit fee for properties located within the unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

Solar systems are exempt from such fees under San Diego County’s Green Building Incentive program. However, fees may vary in incorporated areas. Contact your local planning office for more information regarding permit fees and other costs. 

Property Tax Exemptions

Where can I find additional help?

There are several options if you have questions that haven’t been answered by this FAQ.

You can reach the County of San Diego by calling 619-531-5413 or sending an email to

You can also call the California Center for Sustainable Energy at 858-244-1177 or the San Diego Energy Efficiency Information Hotline at 866-733-6374. 

How does the solar property tax exemption work?

Like many states, California has a law that exempts solar equipment from property taxes. This law mandates that the assessed value of your property cannot increase as a result of installing an active solar energy system. This exemption is automatically applied as part of the San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk’s review process for building permits.

To learn more about this exemption, you can call the San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk at 858-505-6262. 

How does the exemption policy define an “active” solar system?

In order to be considered an “active” solar energy system, a solar installation must be separate from the living space of the property and must collect, store or distribute solar energy. This includes many full solar energy systems, solar water heaters, solar heating, and cooling systems and other equipment. This exemption does not cover solar hot tub or swimming pool heaters.

If you have questions regarding the exemption policy, please contact the office of the San Diego Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk at 858-505-6262. 

Do I need to do anything to apply for the tax exemption?

The solar energy property tax exemption is applied automatically as part of the building permit review process. Your project is automatically assessed for any potential property value changes when your permit is approved. There will be no impact to your assessed value if your project qualifies for this exemption.

If any additional follow up is required, you will be contacted by the Assessor’s office. 

Solar power is rapidly becoming an energy source of the future across California. There are many programs and incentives available to make solar a viable choice for many property owners. Now, thanks to the Go Solar San Diego County program, residents across the San Diego area have more access than ever to the financing and information needed to tap into the abundant energy of the sun.

For more details and any other questions, you may contact Ryan Willemsen at

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