Trends at the cusp of the year are favorable for renewables in California. Project financing continues to be an uphill struggle--but, overall, less steep at the start of this year with federal lawmakers\u2019 extension of the federal wind energy tax credit and the successful launch of a new renewable investment project. Also included in the temporary denouement of the fiscal cliff were extensions of federal tax credits for energy efficient homes and appliances. More than two years after the demise of public agency renewables financing, known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), an Oakland-based company Jan. 8 reaped more than $300,000 from small investors for four solar projects in California and New York. \u201cFor the first time ever, the American public will be able to invest directly into clean energy projects and receive a solid return,\u201d according to the alternative renewable financing company, Mosaic. Investments are in solar projects on affordable housing apartments for low-income residents in California, offering a 4.5 percent annual return, net of servicing fees, with terms of nine years. To date, Mosaic raised $1 million from more than 700 investors to finance 12 rooftop solar power plants in California, Arizona, and New Jersey, it states. Also on the bright side of the renewables ledger, was a surge in solar generated electricity--both near and far. Distributed solar--largely photovoltaic units on rooftops--was sending more juice into the state grid than predicted in 2012. \u201cIt\u2019s a really cool experience,\u201d Ed Randolph, California Public Utilities Commission energy division director, said Jan. 10. The California Solar Initiative is \u201cmeeting and exceeding expectations,\u201d he added Randolph said there was 1,100 MW installed by the end of last year. California has a total goal of 1,940 MW of solar power by the end of 2016. Counter-intuitively, as rebates decline, consumers have shown increased interest in installing rooftop solar panels, according to Randolph. He noted that in 2012, the rebates were 92 percent lower than originally set by the state, counting for 5 percent of installed costs. The state program sets aside $2.4 billion for financial help for distributed solar. In addition, one solar project went online and another landed a long-term utility contract. The 265 MW Ocotillo wind project began feeding into San Diego Gas & Electric\u2019s Sunrise Powerlink Transmission line. It\u2019s said to be the first renewable project to send power to the massive line connecting San Diego and the Imperial Valley, which can move 1,000 MW. The high-voltage line\u2019s raison d\u2019être is to provide a path way for alternative power supplies. In addition, Sempra\u2019s Mesquite Solar project in Arizona completed its first 150 MW phase, the company announced Jan 9. It has a 20-year deal with Pacific Gas & Electric. The project could be expanded to 700 MW. Also feeling 2013 cheer was the struggling solar panel developer SunPower. It sold its Antelope Valley solar projects to MidAmerican Solar Jan. 2. The projects--with a combined 579 MW of capacity co-located in Kern and Los Angeles--are to send power to Southern California Edison under long-term power contracts approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. Construction is expected to begin soon and be completed in two years. The blessing of MidAmerican\u2019s Warren Buffet looked to investors like the pope\u2019s approval for solar stocks as many solar companies immediately felt the Buffet \u201cbump\u201d in higher share prices. Not every solar developer received bright news in the twain of the year. That includes the developers of the Hidden Hills solar project slated for Inyo County. After conducting a lengthy analysis, California Energy Commission staff determined that the solar thermal power project would have numerous \u201csignificant environmental impacts\u201d if constructed as designed. In a comprehensive assessment released Dec. 21, Energy Commission staffers wrote that even with recommended mitigation measures in place, the proposed $2.2 billion, 500 MW, project would harm biological resources, cultural resources, land use, and visual resources. The project, proposed by a subsidiary of BrightSource Energy, would sit on over 3,200 acres of privately owned land adjacent to the Nevada border. The acreage would contain two 250 MW solar plants, with each generating electricity through the use of about 85,000 elevated mirrors that would be used to focus the sun\u2019s rays on a solar receiver atop a 750 foot tall power tower near the center of each field. The analysis also states that if a solar photovoltaic project were built instead, the impacts on water supply, visual resources, and cultural resources would be less significant, as would the potential for birds to crash into project structures.