Dark skies for solar-training plan

The CEO of California’s busiest solar energy installation company said he is ready to abandon plans to open a worker-training academy in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, due to a delay in a city proposal to offer solar rebates to residents and private companies.

In March, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that $3 million from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission would be used to provide subsidies for rooftop solar panel installations: up to $5,000 to residents and $10,000 for private companies.

Although the program was expected to begin this month, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick introduced legislation to put it on hold. The city legislator said the Board of Supervisors should have approved the spending proposal, which would drain funds from a municipal solar energy project. McGoldrick’s resolution is not due to be debated for more than two weeks.

Solar City CEO Lyndon Rive told The Examiner on Tuesday that his company will yank a proposal to set up a training center in San Francisco and locate it elsewhere in the Bay Area unless officials map out the rebate program’s future within 30 days. According to industry data, Solar City installs more solar panels per week than any other company in California.

“If this program doesn’t get approved, then the adoption of solar in San Francisco will be very low,” Rive said. “Based on that, we don’t think the volume will be there to sustain our training academy.”

Newsom said The City has worked hard to woo the company to San Francisco.

He described the delay to the proposed rebate plan as “potentially disastrous” to its relationships with other solar panel companies as well.

According to the Solar City proposal, the academy would have trained at least 30 workers every two months as solar panel installers, who would work for the company and be deployed around the country, according to Rive. The two-month course would cost students up to $1,000 apiece and the installation jobs would initially pay $15 to $25 per hour, he said.

The decision to relocate the training center would be a blow to The City’s efforts to establish itself as a leader in the emerging clean-technology industry, according to Egon Terplan, economic development director at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

Policy issues related to the solar program need to be vetted before money is spent, McGoldrick told The Examiner in an e-mail. The supervisor characterized Solar City’s threat to abandon The City as “greenmail.”

jupton@examiner.com

Examiner Staff Writer David Smith contributed to this report.

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