Where better to find an alternative to grid power and to exploit the abundance of sunshine than in energy-strapped but sun-soaked California? From today, the state’s residents can have installed in a few days, a photovoltaic home solar system provided by the nation’s largest and fastest growing residential provider of cleaner electricity, Green Mountain Energy Company.

The company is offering Californians a simple and economical response to the state’s current energy situation and, “invites consumers to join in its mission to change the way power is made.”

Houston-based Green Mountain Energy is offering residential customers a choice of systems which will be installed on rooftops which they say, will reduce electric bills, state rebates and increased property value. Depending on which system a customer selects, the unit can provide up to 100 per cent of the electricity needed to power the average California home.

BP Solar, a leading solar electric company, makes all the systems with over 44 years of collective experience in the manufacture, development and marketing of photovoltaic (solar electric) products and systems.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for California residents to start generating their own electricity by harnessing the clean power of the sun, thereby reducing their dependence on the local utility,” said Rick Counihan, California Regional Vice President of Green Mountain Energy Company. “Our Home Solar system is designed for Californians who want a reliable way to address the uncertainties resulting from the current power crisis. With our offering, customers can gain more control over how much their electricity costs and how it is made.”

Green Mountain Energy Home Solar offers three standard-sized systems, ranging from 1 to 4kW. After factoring in California Energy Commission Buydown Program incentives, the 1kW system will cost approximately $7000 and a 4kW system will cost approximately $22 000. The exact price will depend on the particular layout of each installation.

A typical 2kW solar electricity system can supply the average consumption of a Californian household with approximately 50 per cent of its power. For those customers who also want to power their homes with solar electricity during typical rolling blackouts, a back-up battery system is available at an additional cost of approximately $3000. Depending on the individual customer’s choice of financing, most will recoup their investment in about ten years.

Green Mountain Energy say that the solar panels supplied by BP will last for decades and include a free annual check-up, full five-year panel to panel warranty as well as a limited 20-year warranty on the panels themselves.

Today worth nearly $2bn, the global solar photovoltaic (PV) market is expected to grow to $10bn by 2010. The annual growth rate of solar PV products is currently 25-30 per cent and is predicted to double every three years for the next 20 years. According to the California Energy Commission, the California market for residential and commercial solar products has surged over the past year. The renewed interest in solar is reflected in a 500 per cent increase in grant applications to the state’s Emerging Resources Buydown Program.

Green Mountain Energy say that the installation of a 2kW home solar system customer will prevent the release of approximately two and a half tons of carbon dioxide per year, from entering the earth’s atmosphere. Solar arrays give off no emissions.

The concept of solar power is simple. The sun’s rays are captured by an array of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, converted into direct current, inverted into the alternating current used by appliances, and fed through homes using the existing electrical system. Any excess electricity produced flows back to the utility. At night, power is drawn from utilities as usual, but during the day consumers can enjoy the pollution-free, renewable power of the sun. If the household demand exceeds the output of the solar system, additional electricity flows from the grid. And if demand is less than the solar output, the excess will flow out to the grid spinning the meter backward.