Environmental Concerns Are Motivating More Residents To Go SolarPosted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 at 11:48 pm by Energy Resource Services
Long before the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the Rev. William Konicki was preaching to his Hopedale parishioners about environmental awareness and energy conservation. An avid recycler, he drives a Toyota Prius and grows his own vegetables. One “green’’ step Konicki had not taken until recently, however, was powering his home with solar energy.
That changed last month, when Konicki had rooftop panels installed on his house in Webster and signed an 18-year contract with SunRun, the California company that owns and maintains the equipment, to be his main electricity vendor. He figures he will save 8 cents per kilowatt hour in future energy costs — taking 50 percent or more off his monthly bill, which has averaged about $66 — while helping save the planet.
Konicki belongs to a growing number of Massachusetts residents who are going solar at a time when climate change, eco-disasters, and rising energy costs are generating sobering headlines. The shift to solar energy is being driven by several factors, some economic, some technological, and some environmental.
“The oil spill has raised everyone’s consciousness about how fragile the environment is,’’ said Konicki, 57, who served as a missionary in Haiti (where even before the January earthquake electricity could be a scarce commodity). Americans’ dependence on fossil fuel, he added, “is bad for everyone, from the individual consumer to the planet we live on.’’
With the cost of residential solar-energy systems falling, state and federal tax incentives are making these systems even more financially feasible for many homeowners. From Washington, which has earmarked $150 million in stimulus money for individuals upgrading their energy sources, to Massachusetts, which has set aside $68 million in rebate money for those electing to go solar, there are plenty of incentives around to switch to sun-generated power. In his speech last month about the oil spill, President Obama mentioned solar as an alternative to fossil fuels, and this month he announced $1.85 billion in loan guarantees to help build solar-power plants.
And look who’s touting the virtues of solar energy now: Actor Larry Hagman, reprising his “Dallas’’ TV series role as oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, stars in a new ad promoting SolarWorld, a German manufacturer of photovoltaic modules. “Shine, baby, shine,’’ chirps Hagman, whose California home draws its power from the sun.
In 2007, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, 374 residential solar photovoltaic systems were installed statewide. That figure climbed to 494 in 2008 and to 847 last year. By the middle of this year, 360 home systems had been installed, with another 102 in the pipeline. Nationally, according to a 2009 report by the US Solar Industry, there has been a 37 percent increase in residential installations since 2008. The US Department of Energy will soon release its own measurement of solar energy’s potential growth over the next 20 years. (Only a small fraction — less than 1 percent — of the domestic energy supply comes from solar power.)
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