For program information, application process and requirements, go to the general Berkeley FIRST information page.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does FIRST stand for?
Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology.
What is the relationship between the City of Berkeley and Renewable Funding?
Renewable Funding LLC is under contract with the City of Berkeley as the third party administrator for the Berkeley FIRST program. Renewable Funding oversees the application process and will be reviewing all application property documentation. To learn more about Renewable Funding, please visit: www.renewfund.com.
Does Berkeley FIRST fund Energy Efficiency and Solar Hot Water installation?
The pilot program will provide funding only for solar photovoltaic systems. Depending on future funding, it is hoped that Berkeley FIRST will ultimately be able to expand funding to solar thermal and other major energy efficiency projects. In many circumstances, the most cost effective way to reduce energy costs is to improve the efficiency of a building.
Are there limits to the number of people who can participate?
The FIRST program initially funded 40 installations distributed throughout Berkeley. Financing of up to $37,500 per installation for either residential or commercial properties citywide is available for these projects. During this pilot phase the City will evaluate the program and determine whether another round of funding can be made available.
I don't live in Berkeley; can I still apply for funding from this program?
Only residential or commercial properties located in the City of Berkeley are eligible for funding; however Berkeley property owners do not have to live in Berkeley to apply.
What are the program eligibility requirements?
- All property owners on title must agree to terms of the program and sign the required FIRST documents.
- Property must not have any notices of default on mortgage, property taxes or any other type of financial obligation; no tax liens as a result of a failure to pay taxes within past 3 years and no current mechanic liens in excess of $1,000.
- Property must comply with the City of Berkeley Residential or Commercial Ordinances (RECO/CECO) prior to the disbursement of payment for the solar installation.
- Property owner is required to apply for and comply with the California Solar Initiative (CSI) rebate program in order to receive a rebate on the cost of the program.
- Property owner is required to consent to release of names and contact information to CSI and PG&E billing information for the period of 18 months prior and following installation.
Will I be taxed if do not want to participate?
No, the special tax is not imposed on taxpayers who choose not to participate in the program. Property owners will pay a special tax only if they “opt-in” to the Special Tax District and have work done on their property as part of the program.
How much will I pay if I do choose to participate?
The annual special tax amount for each property owner is calculated based upon (a) the cost of the energy project installed in that property owner’s residential or commercial property, (b) the interest rate paid by the City on Special Tax Bonds or other monies used to fund the cost of that property owner’s energy project, (c) administrative charges levied by the City and County.
How will the interest rate on the Bonds be calculated?
The interest rate is set at 3.25% over the 10-year U.S. Treasury Note. The interest rate is fixed for the 20-year duration of the repayment once a participant requests funding. City and County property tax administrations will also be included in the final rate.
What if the property owner does not pay the Special Tax?
The Berkeley FIRST Special Tax, like other property taxes, will be secured by a lien on the subject property, which ranks senior to the first mortgage. Failure to pay property taxes can lead to the foreclosure of a property in order to collect delinquent taxes.
If I participate in the Berkeley FIRST program, can I still get other tax deductions, credits and rebates?
Program participants are required to apply to the California Solar Initiative (CSI) rebate program, which will help offset the total cost of your solar project. The FIRST program does not reduce the amount of the rebate available through the CSI program. Participants should consult a tax professional to determine whether income deductions or tax credits may be claimed on personal taxes.
How quickly will I receive payment from the City?
Once the installation is completed and the final inspection from the City of Berkeley Building and Safety Division is signed off, the property owner can request payment from the City's Solar Financing District. In order to receive payment, the property owner must submit all final documents required as part of the Solar Financing District Agreement including:
- Copy of final invoice from installer, including as built system size per CSI requirements
- California Solar Initiative rebate letter
- Final inspection notice
- Signed authorization for release of CSI and PG&E information
- Signed program terms and disclosures
- Signed unanimous consent and liability release
The City of Berkeley will verify RECO or CECO compliance prior to authorizing the disbursement of funds.
What happens if I sell my property?
The special tax obligation will remain as an obligation of the property when the property is sold. If the owner sells the property prior to the end of the 20-year tax period, the new owner takes over the special tax obligation as part of the annual tax obligation on the property. The energy systems are part of the property and ownership of the energy system will transfer to the new owner at the close of the real estate sale.
Can I use any contractor for solar installation?
The owner can contract directly with any qualified private solar installer registered with the California Solar Initiative (www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov)
What permits do I need through the City of Berkeley to install solar PV on my home?
Electrical permits are required for all solar PV installations. Zoning and building permits may also be needed depending on the installation. For more information please see the Solar Photovoltaic Permit Guide and Solar Permit Checklist.
I am a solar installer or contractor and would like to participate. What is the process?
In order to participate in the program, installers must be registered with the California Solar Initiative (www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov). Contracts are made solely between property owners and installers, not the Berkeley FIRST program. For more information on the role of the solar installer please see the presentations listed below from the Solar Installer's Workshop.
October 10, 2008 Solar Installer Workshop Presentation Materials:
I was unable to property owner community workshops but would still like to review the presentations.
Workshops for Property Owners were held on October 14, 15 and 21, 2008. Please find copies of the presentations below:
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