Green Living: Shopping for Values, Steve Waller

Life has changed, more than just COVID. Old values face new challenges—climate, rural flight (urbanization), jobs and energy. Like COVID, these won’t go away unless we do something. A technological solution has risen from obscurity and matured. It is finally the best economic choice, but it requires new values and attitudes.

Solar is the solution, not just for the homes and businesses of those who can afford it, but also for utilities serving the rest of us who can’t afford it or who rent. Solar has many good points, but there are tradeoffs that question and challenge old,outdated values.

Homeowners who install solar commit to something that neighbors may not be ready to accept. Solar homeowners willingly invest in what they already had (electricity) but value being cleaner and not making the challenges listed above worse. They save money and increase their home value while simultaneously giving doubting neighbors the unexpected gift of stabilized electricity prices and a cleaner environment. Neighbors who see solar working cleanly, silently, effectively, and reliably change their outdated resistance.

The cost for residential solar is about the price of a moderate car except cars need constant refueling, insurance, maintenance, and are pretty much dead after ten years, while solar panels are very much alive, and doubling or eventually tripling the initial investment. A car is an expense, not an investment. Cars never return their original cost.

Two cars cost twice as much for ten years. Two solar panels return twice as much for more than twenty-five years. Solar is an effortless, secure, tax-free, inflation-proof investment, not an expense. To say someone can’t afford solar is saying they don’t have a 401K because they have to put money into the account. If you don’t invest, you don’t get the profit.

Utility grade solar (thousands of solar panels grouped together) should not be taken lightly because there are tradeoffs that challenge old values while offering important new benefits.

Utility solar effortlessly converts all grid-tied customers (resistant households, low-income households, businesses, mines, factories, farms, entire towns) to clean instead of dirty power. New utility solar is now officially the least expensive electricity available, less expensive than natural gas. Grid-tied customers pay less with solar energy. Local communities benefit from tax revenue generated by utility solar panels. Solar stabilizes electricity cost (no fuel price hikes). Solar storage strongly reduces the need for old, expensive, dirty power plants.

U.P. Facts: Solar panels output more power in our cold weather.

The backs of “bifacial” solar panels collect additional energy from sunlight reflected from snow. Solar “trackers” tilt panels for maximum output during the high summer sun or the low winter sun,and also help shed snow.

Utility tradeoff: Thousands of utility solar panels cover hundreds or maybe thousands of acres of rural land. Most see those panels as a needed improvement. Others aren’t ready to see their landscape change. The value of clean solar energy has to outweigh the value of a view for a few. Solar panels prevent much more CO2 than trees can capture. Without solar, our electricity increases CO2, warms earth, and kills wildlife.

Solar brings clean, stable, badly needed, long-term, non-toxic power, tax revenue, and jobs to rural job-starved areas, and benefits the entire region. Utilities must be pushed to build solar farms faster, and residents must value some acreage being safely and economically converted to clean energy.

Give the gift that values our entire generation and kids, brings badly needed resources to local communities, and protects the environment (climate, air, water, and wildlife). Become a vocal supporter of clean solar energy.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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