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09/23/23 16:21Login ] [ Contact Forum Admin ] [ Main index ] [ Post a new message ] [ Search | Check update time | Archives: 1[2]34 ]
Subject: A Thousand Points of Light: solar panels everywhere

Dale Hovdebo
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Date Posted: 07/20/06 4:13
Author Host/IP: 219-89-249-208.adsl.xtra.co.nz/

The Problem:
Global Warming

The Social Invention:
This is a proposal that the American government institute a program to buy and install solar panels on every government, commercial and residential building in the continental US and Hawaii. The costs would be booked as a 20-year loan which would be repaid by the building owner from energy savings.

Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight into electricity. The fuel may be free, but up to now the capital cost of installing the cells on a home has been too high. People are deterred by the long payback period - it can take 10 to 20 years of energy savings to pay back the cost of installation. What the industry needs is a customer with financial muscle and a long time horizon - the federal government.

I'm not suggesting that people or businesses should be forced to accept these installations. The idea is that most people will agree to have the panels installed if it doesn't cost them anything. In addition, the contracts could be structured so that the building owner receives a small percentage of the revenue generated by selling surplus electricity back to the grid. This would have the added advantage of rewarding people for minimizing daytime energy consumption. The program benefits America in several ways:
Environmental Considerations - the vast amount of electricity generated by millions of PV panels would significantly reduce the amount of fossil fuels being burned at coal-fired and oil burning power plants.
International Relations - this program should allow America to exceed the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions called for in the Kyoto Accord. That achievement should eliminate the damage to America's reputation from not signing on. Further, the reduction in fossil fuel consumption would lower global demand, thus reducing upward pressure on prices.

Energy Security - this consideration could be what convinces skeptical American conservatives to sign up. A large increase in domestically generated energy would mean a large reduction in American demand for foreign oil. Increased energy security for America and lower fossil fuel prices for the world economy should be a powerful incentive for patriotic Americans to join the program.

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