Solar energy installations heat up

Spurred on by consumer rebates, Burbank Water and Power has seen a doubling in the number of solar installations in the past two years.

There are now 93 solar energy systems in Burbank, compared to 36 in July of last year, and nearly all were funded with grant money from the utility. Twenty-two additional systems are in the pipeline, officials say.

Combined, the solar panels generate more than 2,000 kilowatts of clean energy — enough electricity to power nearly 1,000 homes for a full year.

Burbank Water and Power brought 19 residential and four commercial solar energy systems online in 2010, according to solar support program manager said John Joyce, a solar support program manager for the utility.


“Our rebates look good compared to other areas,” he said.

Government-sponsored rebates have continued to drop over time, but Burbank’s are still relatively strong.

And the drop in the economy has actually contributed to the rise in the number of solar systems, Joyce said.

The economy went south amid strong rates of production meant an increased supply of panels drove prices down, prompting vendors to offer better rates, he said.


Local businesses are hopping on the solar train: Costco on Burbank Boulevard flipped the switch on its solar energy installation in November and IKEA has plans for its own panel system in 2011.

Costco’s solar energy project will cover about 20% its electricity requirements and generate about 850,000 kilowatt-hours of energy annually, making it the largest such project in the city, said Burbank Water and Power General Manager Ron Davis.

IKEA’s project will be roughly half the size in terms of output, according to the utility.

The Burbank IKEA location is one of eight solar installations for the store in California, according to the company.

The store was considered not only due to a cost perspective, but due to the layout of the roof and the viability of laying a large amount of solar panels, said IKEA spokesman Joseph Roth.

“Other projects have paid off significantly in energy costs and help contribute to local agency renewable energy goals,” Roth said.

The Burbank store is the furthest along out of all the California locations thanks to the local permitting process, he said, and because most of the panels are already installed.

The system will likely come online within the early months of 2011, Roth said.


Burbank Water and Power has already started construction on a 240-kilowatt solar powered parking structure on North Lake Street between West Olive Avenue and West Magnolia Boulevard.

The structure will also absorb water into the property and include LED lighting.

“We hope to show that solar panels on parking don’t have to look purely industrial or be something ugly,” said Davis. “We want to demonstrate that solar can be done as an integral part of design and be attractive to the eye.”

The project is paid for by a federal stimulus backed Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.

Burbank Water and Power plans to continue to pressing the use of solar energy for economic and aesthetic reasons in an effort to reach the city’s goal of securing a third of its resources from renewable sources by 2020.

The utility provides roughly $1 million each year for solar installations from public benefit funds gathered from utility bills.

“We encourage the use of solar energy and provide rather large rebates,” Davis said. “It got us in the top 10 cities in the country and we’re very pleased.”