Workers installing solar panels.Last July, the City and County of San Francisco launched the first local solar energy incentive program in the nation. The results are in, and the program is an unequivocal success.

In the year since our solar energy incentive program GoSolarSF launched, we have seen a 450% increase in applications for solar installations in San Francisco over the previous year, from 200 to 850. And despite the current recession, 56 applicants met our low-income standards and will receive incentive payments.

And nonprofit and affordable housing organizations are going solar too. Just last week, I joined a local affordable housing developer, our San Francisco Housing Authority and our San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to announce three new solar installations at Hayes Valley North and South and Plaza East public housing in San Francisco.

The dramatic increase in solar installations in San Francisco over the last year, coupled with the City’s aggressive plans to deploy large-scale solar on municipal properties like the mammoth Sunset Reservoir, have helped catapult San Francisco to state leadership in solar power and renewable energy. A report issued last week by Environment California ranks San Francisco third, just behind much larger and much sunnier Los Angeles and San Diego, in number of rooftop solar installations in California. On a per-capita basis, San Francisco leads the state’s large cities for rooftop solar.

The good work to create this program started with our local Solar Energy Task Force, chaired by our Assessor Phil Ting, who joined me and many others in thinking creatively about how to incentivize and accelerate solar power and renewable energy in San Francisco.

This year, we’ve managed to fund GoSolarSF at an even higher level despite a very tough budget year. That’s because making clean energy and the environment a priority is also good for San Francisco’s economy. Every solar installation incentivized creates good green jobs. The GoSolarSF program alone has created dozens of green jobs for low-income City residents who graduate from our workforce development programs.

By any measure, our solar energy incentive program has been a stellar success after just one year. If we continue making smart investments guided by the right priorities, imagine what we can do for our economy and our environment this year and in years to come.