Loans give Benicia residents a green edge
BENICIA — Solar panels and other "green" technologies could be within more people's reach under a loan program the city has approved.
The program will allow residents and business owners to borrow as much as $75,000 — or 10 percent of their property value, whichever is less — for renewable energy, energy efficiency and water conservation projects. They would repay the loans over 20 years through property tax assessments.
A $10,000 roof-mounted solar array, for example, would result in an annual add-on to property tax bills of about $500, plus interest, Community Development and Public Works Director Charlie Knox said. That increase likely would be commensurate with energy bill savings, Knox said.
The program is part of a statewide drive to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and is authorized by state legislation to allow commercial, industrial and residential property owners to finance various "green" projects.
The City Council unanimously voted Dec. 15 to participate in the California Communities pilot program. City officials anticipate the first loans will be available in May or June. Details will be announced about sign-ups at that time, Knox said.
City Attorney Heather McLaughlin said solar contractors must meet set standards under the program. She added that the city could create a list of recommended contractors for property owners who want to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient.
Among the projects that could qualify for financing are small, roof-mounted wind turbines, energy-efficient windows and on-demand water heaters.
City officials said it would be possible to take out loans and still qualify for other state rebates. The city also hopes to provide its own rebates of as much as $1,000 for renewable energy projects.
Homeowners with 20 percent equity would qualify for loans. There are no income restrictions.