A Consequential Life Cycle Assessment of the SCEIP Financing Program for Residential Photovoltaics in Sonoma County, CA: Determining the Life Cycle Carbon and Energy Cost Benefit
Sonoma County, CA is on an ambitious pathway to meeting stringent carbon emissions goals that are part of California Assembly Bill 32. At the county-level, climate planners are currently evaluating options to assist residents of the county in reducing their carbon footprint and also for saving money. The Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP) is one such county-level measure that is currently underway. SCEIP is a revolving loan fund that eligible residents may utilize to install distributed solar energy on their property. The fund operates like a property tax assessment, except that it only remains for a period of 20 years rather than in perpetuity.
This analysis intends to estimate the potential countywide effect that the $100M SCEIP fund might achieve on the C02 and cost footprint for the residential building energy sector. A functional unit of one typical home in the county is selected for a 25 year analysis period. Outside source data for the lifecycle emissions generated by the production, installation and operations of a PV system are utilized. Recent home energy survey data for the region is also utilized to predict a “typical” system size and profile that might be funded by the SCEIP program. A marginal cost-benefit calculation is employed to determine what size solar system a typical resident might purchase, which drives the life cycle assessment of the functional unit. Next, the total number of homes that might be financed by the SCEIP bond is determined in order to forecast the potential totalized effect on the County’s lifecycle emissions and cost profile.
The final results are evaluated and it is determined that the analysis is likely conservative in its estimation of the effects of the SCEIP program. This is due to the fact that currently offered subsidies are not utilized in the marginal benefit calculation for the solar system but do exist, the efficiency of solar technology is increasing, and the cost of a system over its lifecycle is currently decreasing. The final results show that financing distributed solar energy systems using Sonoma County money is a viable option for helping to meet state mandated goals and should be further pursued.