Monday, February 18, 2008


can't come quick enough. After reading an article in the Economist about solar technology, I felt a little let down. Even though Al Gore made an influential movie and the New York Times publishes articles about biofuels and wind every other day, nothing really happens. It's just a lot of talk. There's no way the climate/energy problem in the world will be solved without US action and there's no way that's going to happen without strong government action. So, hopefully on 1.21.2009, all this talk will turn into action.

The reason I felt a little down is because this reporter found...
Here’s where going green gets tough. At today’s prices, your correspondent would have to stump up $48,000 for the solar panels alone. Add the cost of the switching modules, the power controller, the fault protector, the DC-to-AC inverter and the service panel—not to mention the installation charges and the contractor’s profit—and the final bill could easily come to $65,000.

What about incentives and tax credits? That depends on where precisely you live and how effective an installation you have. To get anything like a full grant in your correspondent’s neck of the woods, the array would have to be facing due south and tilted at an angle of 34 degrees to the sun. The first might be possible; the second would definitely not. At best, Mayhem Manor would qualify for about $12,000 worth of local assistance plus a $2,000 federal grant.

Borrowing the balance at today’s interest rates would mean repayments of roughly $600 a month for ten years, even after setting the interest charges against tax. And all that just to feel good about saving $75 of electricity a month. Better to buy a couple of tons worth of carbon offsets each year for $70 and have done with it.
Dr. Makhijani thinks we can solve our energy problems with solar panels over parking lots, but how close is this to reality when considering the Economist reporter's findings? The cost of real carbon-neutral energy sources is not going to be competitive with fossil fuels without a tax, so we're really at the mercy of our government. Today we can make dents in the carbon footprint of our country through concerned citizens conservation efforts and decisions to use slightly more expensive energy sources like wind, but we really just have to bide our time until 1.21.2009 when the tax or cap that will cause real change becomes (or starts becoming) reality.

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