Consumer Technology — 22 August 2012

 

One solar home reduces carbon dioxide equal to 3,280 trees.

The debate over future sources of electricity is a daily event.  A Wall Street Journal article this week, for instance, was discussing the situation in Japan, a country that has to import all of its fuel produced for electricity. The Japanese expect that 35% of their electricity will come from renewable sources, mostly solar by 2030.

In the U.S., much of the attention on the energy debate has been focused in the sparsely populated plains of eastern Montana and western North Dakota where an old fashioned oil boom is underway.

Drillers are finishing wells at a rate of eight daily, up from less than one a day five years ago, according to Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota’s  Department of Mineral Resources.

Does that mean renewable energy is on the wane in the United States?

While coal and natural gas still produce most of the electricity in the U.S., solar energy looks like it has found its place.

“One of the reasons that solar energy makes sense for homeowners is the price of coal and natural gas. As prices go up, so will the costs of electricity. With solar, your prices are predictable,” said Jeff Farrington who owns and operates SunCraftsmen, a Los Angeles-based solar installation company.

In places like Southern California, where sunshine is plentiful, solar energy is readily available. Consumers are giving it another look as they endure 6-to-7% annual rate increases from the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison, the two main utilities serving the millions of inhabitants of Southern California.

Farrington, who has a Masters degree from UC Berkeley in city planning, argues that solar energy is good not only for the environment, but also for the economy.

An average system for a single family home—3 kW using twelve Solar World 255 watt panels—will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 82 tons over 25 years. To achieve a similar reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, one would have to plant 3,280 trees or drive nearly 280,000 fewer miles.

“Therein lies the double bonus with solar energy—not only does it save you money but it is also the sort of financial investment that you can feel good about,” said Farrington. “Installing a solar energy system with Made-in-America parts also helps capture growth locally in the green energy sector rather than sending it overseas.

Industry sources claim solar energy is currently the most cost effective (full return on investment is possible within 5 years), dependable (25 year warranties are the industry standard) and easily attainable source of renewable energy available to homeowners. The triple bottom line for solar, they claim,  is decidedly positive—it’s a sound investment that will lower your utility bill immediately, switching to solar energy is good for the environment, and buying American-made products strengthens our economy and global competitiveness.

“It’s a big decision for a homeowner to spend the money up front in order to have savings in the future,” said Farrington. “I spend a lot of time with potential customers helping them understand that spending money now can save you thousands in the future.” 

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