Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

April 27, 2014

Forum: Occupy our rooftops — install solar

By Ann Rogers

Imagine a future with clean water, air and soils. Imagine being able to have almost free energy at least part of the time. Imagine a sustainable economy based on local food and local energy. Unrealistic you say?

Not so. Germany, Denmark, India and California are determined to become that future, and they are doing it by embracing renewable energy, particularly solar, and micro-grids.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt are the only obstacles. Myths abound, myths that have been promulgated by fossil fuel corporations who consider renewables a threat to their last fossil fuel dollars.

Myth 1: We live too far north. Germany, at 51 degrees latitude is further north than Michigan by 415 miles, and they now have over 28 percent of their power from clean energy. They have also seen a rise in employment and price stability.

Myth 2: Cost. Total price for solar has come way down, over 50 percent since 2010. In many areas you can get financing and pay over time. Some systems are even using a power purchase agreement where you lease the systems and pay only for kilowatt hours used. Sun is an inexhaustible resource and, as the IEA observes, it is “the cheapest antidote to catastrophic climate change.” Solar voltaics are already competitive with fossil fuels in some places. Micro-financing and crowd-funding are allowing people even in remote areas to connect to the grid. Our up-coming entrepreneurs and citizen-owned utilities must be willing to take a stand and make this happen.

Myth 3: Reliability. Solar power sent right into the grid in New York has improved reliability. If they had been independent, Hurricane Sandy would not have been so devastating.

Myth 4: Jobs. Solar creates jobs in manufacturing, sales, installation and maintenance, and these cannot be outsourced. The Institute for Self-Reliance estimates a million jobs could be created. Green job growth is already a fact; a U.C. Berkeley study shows more jobs created per average kilowatt than those generated by coal and natural gas. These jobs would break monopolies and spread the benefits to all, as customers could be producers. It can also be done with the speed needed to counteract climate change. Energy needs to be de-centralized and regional. Micro-grids could be created using computer technology and software.

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