[caption id="attachment_12288" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Cailyn McCauley is participating in the energy loan program and is writing a blog, www.uppingthegreen.com "][/caption]

SONOMA COUNTY - More than 355 Sonoma County residents have submitted applications to the Energy Independence Program, a financing tool for property owners wishing to make energy-efficient upgrades, requesting $14 million to retrofit their homes and businesses with energy- and water-saving improvements.

The program, which launched March 25, is made possible though Assembly Bill 811, which allows for cities and counties in California to create financing districts for energy improvements. In Sonoma County, loans are payable on property-tax bills.

So far, the most popular items being installed are windows, heating and cooling equipment, insulation and solar panels.

Local contractors are utilizing the program to generate new customers.

"This program is a great way to help people afford to make improvements they have been wanting but haven't been able to find a way to pay for them," said Tom LeDuc of LeDuc and Dexter Plumbing.

"One of the key goals for the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program was job creation, and we are thrilled to see that so many people are being put to work through upgrading homes and businesses," said program administer Rod Dole, Sonoma County's Auditor Controller Tax Collector.

The Hope-Merrill House and Hope-Bosworth House, two historic bed and breakfasts in Geyserville, are using the program to reduce water use through retrofits and save energy through the installation of solar panels. The hotels' owner, Ron Scheiber, has been waiting for an opportunity to "green" his bed and breakfasts and reduce operating costs.

"This is exactly what we hoped for when we pushed to implement this first-of-a-kind program. Sonoma County residents are being given the tools to make improvements to their homes and businesses while putting contractors back to work. At the same time, they're reducing the County's energy use and greenhouse gas emissions," said Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley.

Amy's Kitchen in Santa Rosa is using its loan to increase energy efficiency of its manufacturing building by installing a cool roof system and insulation.

Santa Rosa resident Cailyn McCauley and her husband Joel Quigley are using the program to continue to make their home more efficient and make their retrofit a case study in water and energy efficiency. After the completion of the current improvements, and evaluating their new energy use, they plan to install solar.

"We could not even dream of taking our home to the next level of efficiency without this financing tool," said Ms. McCauley.

Ms. McCauley has started a blog for their retrofit project at www.uppingthegreen.com to share their experience and inspire others to make the change.

The Sonoma County Energy Independence Program provides financing for private property improvements to increase water and energy efficiency or produce renewable energy. More information is available at www.sonomacountyenergy.org.