The future of clean energy is here

Samantha P. Hawthorne
Staff Writer


A future of clean energy technologies is within reach, stated the United States Department of Energy’s 2013 report “Revolution Now.”

According to the report, technologies produced by solar energy have seen a “dramatic reduction in cost” within the last five years, which have led to a “surge in consumer, industrial and commercial deployment.” Trends have shown a “historic shift to a cleaner, more domestic and more secure energy future.”

The cost of purchasing solar panels to generate household and commercial energy has decreased by 99 percent in the last 35 years, making it possible for the average homeowner to utilize “the infinite power of the sun,” stated the report.

By joining the revolution of harnessing the sun’s natural power-generating abilities in their everyday lives, Americans can help reduce emissions of harmful carbon pollution; decrease household costs and gain federal financial incentives; and assist in decreasing U.S. dependence on outside countries to supply oil, gas and other energy resources.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, electric power plants produce approximately 40 percent of America’s carbon emissions. Those emissions are one of several factors to which global warming is attributed. The National Resources Defense Council said that in recent years, climate changes caused by global warming have contributed to damaging floods, widespread wildfires, record droughts and superstorms.

“For the health and welfare of Americans, for the nation’s economy, and for the stability of the planet, now is the time to reduce pollution from America’s power plants, dramatically increase the energy efficiency of our economy and reduce the threat of climate change,” said the NRDC.

More than half the country’s states have agreed to take measures of preserving the vitality of the planet for generations to come. California is currently the nation’s leader in producing clean solar energy, and the state is home to the world’s largest solar power plant.

The 400-megawatt plant, which began operations in February, is capable of powering 140,000 homes. The plant is located just inside the southeastern part of California near the border of Nevada. The Associated Press describes it as a “marker for the United States’ emerging solar industry.”


Installing solar systems

Bill Battagin, Feather River Solar Electric owner, has been installing solar systems for over 20 years, including over 100 systems in the Plumas County. He said with confidence that prices for installing such equipment have decreased at least 75 percent during his time in the industry.

He illustrated that solar systems are a lifetime investment; but instead of risking money on fluctuating stocks and bonds, you are guaranteed money in your pocket. He said although the initial investment in the system is costly, solar system owners do not have to pay monthly utility bills. He said in most cases this means systems pay for themselves within 10 years because of the decrease in household expenses.

In Plumas County, grid-tied systems can be installed for an average of $15,000 to $18,000 for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers; and $9,000 to $13,000 for Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative customers. Both amounts include the federal income tax credit available for solar customers.

The federal incentive program offers a no-cap credit of 30 percent off the purchase price of a new solar system. Since 2007 the California Solar Initiative program has been offering cash back rebates to customers who install solar systems.

Last year rebates for PG&E customers were exhausted; however, PSREC only just started offering rebates of up to $6,000 to its customers. This amount accounts for the difference in average costs to install a solar system.

Battagin said there is little to no cost for maintenance and upkeep of solar systems, and they are expected to produce energy at full capacity for up to 30 years.

In addition to upfront costs, the only other expenses are small fees charged by utility companies to monitor energy in and out. This could be as low as $4 a month for PG&E customers, to as high as $24 a month for PSREC. In some cases, the yearly average of electricity consumed or generated by the customer could result in either an end-of-year payback to the utility district or a small profit to the customer.

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