Committee extols virtue of solar power


Del Mar City Councilman Henry Abarbanel has long been a proponent of energy sufficiency for the city. In a list of goals presented to fellow council members at last year’s goal setting session Abarbanel’s number one goal read: “Fully participate, along with any regional efforts, in making Del Mar an energy sustainable city.

Abarbanel, a liaison to Del Mar’s Energy Issues Advisory Committee has put his money where his mouth is. He recently installed a 2 1/2 kilowatt photovoltaic system on his roof.

“It was very easy and surprisingly affordable,” said Abarbanel.

The energy advisory committee wants to tout that ease to other residents.

“Most people say ‘it’s got to be a DRB (Design Review Board) nuisance,’” said committee member George Webb, “but it’s really not. It’s basically a $160 permit and you are done.”

Del Mar shares services with Solana Beach’s building inspection department where permitting for both cities occurs. Getting solar installed on a Del Mar home involves submitting specs and plans from an installer at the front desk at Del Mar City Hall, and taking a transmittal form to Solana Beach. Normally in one to two days the plan is checked and approved.

“There is good value in getting the word out that there is nothing onerous to this,” said the energy committee’s chair Dan Nore.

The committee is also examining recently approved California legislation that might make future solar installations even easier for Del Mar residents.

Signed into law last month by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, bill AB 811, allows owners of existing homes and businesses (new construction does not apply) to take advantage of city-backed, low-interest loans for energy-saving improvements. Under the bill, owners are able to repay the loans over time as part of their property tax bills. The legislation aims to make it easier to install solar power systems and other energy efficient upgrades such as windows and air-conditioning units.

The city of Palm Desert, one of the first Southern California municipalities to embrace AB 811, has already amended their tax code to allow for city-backed energy upgrades. They also have a five-year plan to cut city energy use by 30 percent. The city plans on granting loans for as little as $5,000 with no upper limit along with low interest loans requiring no credit checks other than a property title.

Committee members at their meeting last week, acknowledged Del Mar due to its current finances, would most likely implement the legislation through assessment districts as they are currently doing with the undergrounding of utilities. Other possibilities they agreed would be through grants or bond issuance. The committee is preparing to make a presentation and recommendation to the City Council at an upcoming council meeting.

“I think it’s in the best interest of Del Mar,” said Nore.