Toward a New Approach to Energy


It’s summer, time for swimming, ice cream, barbecues, heat, baseball, and (this post’s topic) sunshine. Summer always starts me thinking about solar energy. Actually, as I live in a dry climate, I think about solar energy at most times of year, but in summer (during the 90* F walks to and from work), my thoughts — like the Sun’s rays, get particularly intense. My thoughts on solar energy reach these points:

  1. My house (like my neighbors’, and millions around the country) absorbs solar energy from sun up to sun down.
  2. In the summer, we use energy to remove the accumulated heat (partly from the solar energy mentioned above) from the house.
  3. There are certain tax incentives for installing solar energy collectors on your property — if you can afford the initial investment.
  4. Many householders cannot afford the initial investment in solar energy that would make them eligible to collect on the tax incentives.
  5. The families that cannot afford the initial investment in home solar production are the ones who would gain the most financial security from the investment.
  6. Most households use most of their electricity at night — when the sun is down — rather then during the day.
  7. A major environmental hurdle to mass solar energy collection is the land required to house it.
  8. The electrical distribution (or grid) is the most efficient way (so far as I know) to manage surplus electrical distribution.
  9. Solar energy is a relatively consistent and predictable energy source, so more traditional sources of electrical power should be able to manage their production accordingly.
  10. Dual metering makes it possible to track a home’s electrical output, in addition to consumption.
  11. Solar energy production costs have been falling consistently over the past decade-and-a-half.
  12. There is a large number of environmental organizations in this country, some of which have substantial funding.

This leads me to conclude:

  1. Some of our environmental organizations have the means to invest in home solar energy production on behalf of some of of our country’s lower-income households.
  2. The investment could be paid back over time, through a combination of the tax credits and a set share of the household electricity production as measured and compensated by the local electric utility.
  3. Home ownership organizations with a goal of increasing household financial stability through home ownership (such as Habitat for Humanity) would also have an interest in helping their clients use home energy production to stabilize the clients’ utility costs. There are many sides to stability through ownership, and owning your power is an important one.
  4. Investors in home solar energy production could also support renters, by using three-way agreements between the renters, their landlords, and the investor (with the agreement becoming a rider on the next tenants’ leases).
  5. As costs to establish home solar energy production drop, it will (hopefully) eventually become common building practice to include solar panels and dual metering in all new construction. In time, perhaps home solar will even become so common that it is an expectation in the building code.

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