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California's Solar-Power Feed-in Tariff Becomes Law

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Sunday that will create a European-style above-market tariff, called a feed-in tariff, for small solar-panel generators.

California's abundant sunshine, relatively high utility rates and solar subsidies have already made the state one of the world's top solar markets. The proposal seeks to expand the market by requiring California utilities to buy power from solar-panel generators of 1.5-3.0 megawatts in size, at set rates above what the utilities would pay for wholesale power from conventional sources.

Some solar companies said the bill's pricing scheme would create a feed-in tariff of about 15 to 17 cents a kilowatt-hour, which they said wouldn't be high enough to spur significant investment. But others said the program would create opportunities for lower-cost projects for which there isn't currently a market.

Supporters of the legislation, including the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said the bill's feed-in tariff will be high enough for schools, local governments, farms, warehouses and other low-cost property owners to take advantage of it.

By Cassandra Sweet
Market Watch

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