This past weekend, homeowners opened their solar homes to those wanting to catch a glimpse of the future of home energy. We hope that you were able to attend one of the 648 tours throughout the country. I took my kids to visit some of the solar homes in Washington, DC and Virginia and enjoyed the display of solar electric, solar thermal and even passive solar. My kids especially enjoyed the solar cookies from the solar ovens. The solar home tour showed just how far solar applications have come and how new technology is reshaping the world around us. We only hope that next year we will see more innovations and more homes on the solar home tours, and we hope that we’ll get an invite to the White House to see Obama’s new solar energy system.
Archive for the ‘Solar Policy & Incentives’ Category
Look at this ger from Mongolia. It’s about 18 feet in diameter and about 8 ½ feet high at its apex. And it has precisely one more solar panel than the White House. You probably have seen the latest news stories about how President Obama has so far politely declined to restore solar to the White House. The nomads living in gers in Mongolia may be able to teach the President a thing or two about solar energy. Now I know that Obama has not taken to this idea very well—but here’s a new idea. Why not set up a ger on the White House grounds right next to Michelle’s organic garden? SolarTown will donate a solar panel to place on top of the ger. That way, the White House will have at least as many solar panels as the nomads living on the steppe of Mongolia.
The death of the energy bill has left a lot of people pointing fingers at each other, and a lot of people wondering if we cannot now take action on climate change, then when—and by whom? A Washington Post article today identifies some very unhappy House Democrats who went out on limb last year to support the energy bill and combat climate change. They now understandably feel hung out to dry. I think that the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman best summarizes the events of the last few days: “Greed, aided by cowardice has triumphed.”
SolarTown met with Mr. Paul Brandus, a White House correspondent with a huge interest in green issues. Brandus is a strong advocate of renewable energy, relating a story on how he personally asked President Obama when solar panels would be installed on the White House, on three separate occasions. Although no solar modules have yet to grace the President’s residence, Brandus expressed his desire to see the 132 rooms of the White House heated by the rays of the sun and the power of the wind, calling the act a great symbolic value to the nation. Incorporating solar and other forms of alternative energy into the lives of Americans is still a major challenge. Interest in environmental-related topics is only illustrated when major catastrophes such as the BP oil spill occurs. After the disaster dies down, the interest responds accordingly. Brandus believes that it will take awhile for solar and renewable energy to fully assimilate into everyone’s lives.
The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs are a creative and effective approach to financing solar energy systems. Many were looking for a solar financing solution and after a very limited experiment in Berkeley, PACE expanded like wild fire to 23 states. PACE may not be for everyone and there are other choices available, but we hope that legal clouds hanging over PACE are resolved. Legislation has been introduced in the House to save PACE. We hope that his efforts succeed. It is a program that can help a lot of people go solar.
Financing of solar energy systems has been a major concern to us at SolarTown since we launched this store and community. The average cost of a typical solar installation is north of $30,000. This amount is substantially reduced with the federal tax credit and some state or local rebates thrown in. But you have to wait months, sometimes many months, to take advantage of the incentives. There are currently alternatives available, but none very appealing. SolarTown has been working on a solution to financing of solar energy systems and we hope to be able to announce the program shortly.
“The time to embrace a clean energy future is now,” said the President during his talk on the BP oil spill earlier this month. For much of the past year, the nation’s energy policy has played second fiddle to , well, everything else, but primarily health care and most recently financial reform. Deadlines have come and gone, and with the mid-terms elections around the corner, it is hard to see how Obama will pick a rabbit out of the hat and push the energy agenda forward.
What is clear is that as states and local governments are cutting back on their solar energy programs, just at the time when the solar industry needs this support the most. The Maryland program cut its rebate program with only a few days notice. Take a look at our SolarTown news stories to read about some of the states that are throwing their renewable energy programs to the wind in an effort to close budget gaps.
Ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, the air in Washington has been thick with expectation for a coherent energy policy. When Obama announced early in his administration that energy was one of three critical priorities—along with health care and education— hopes were high that this country was on a leadership path in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gasses. We are still waiting and chances are not good that we will soon any significant breakthroughs any time soon.
New Jersey has been a leader in solar, but because of tough economic times, the Governor has thrown solar under the bus. The New Jersey governor has diverted some $400 million in clean energy programs to balance the state’s budget. This financing of course puts the solar installer at risk if there are delays in receiving the rebates. What happens when the rebates are in jeopardy? Two words spring to mind: panic and chaos—which is exactly what is happening in New Jersey today. New Jersey has temporarily suspended the solar rebate program and has announced that it will not take any further applications until September. If you are a small installer paying your labor and equipment with the expectation that you will receive the rebates in a timely manner, this announcement must have produced uncertainty at best and panic at worst. This move seems to be pound wise and penny foolish as no doubt the solar installers will have to lay off some of their workers and wait until the rebates become available in September—just as the economy is beginning to recover.
The school where my kids go encouraged all students to walk to school today. We usually drive them to school, so we had to get them up and out of the house a little earlier this morning. I got up and went downstairs to see if they had already gotten up and saw that all of the lights in the kitchen were on and all of the lights in the den were on and all of the lights in the TV room were on—and no sign of my kids who were still upstairs watching Mythbusters on a laptop. Now you have to realize that my kids are generally very environmentally conscious and very supportive of SolarTown’s mission to promote solar energy. But there sometimes is this huge gap between your views and beliefs and taking action on your beliefs. My son is a hard core believer but a less than hard core doer. And that is the challenge we have on Earth Day: how do we move from what we believe to taking actions, even modest ones like turning off the lights when we are out of the room