As we move into the final month of the year 2008 I keep looking up at my rooftop longingly.
Even with the extension of the solar tax credit which came as an unexpected bonus along with the $700 billion bailout and the big increase in how much you can claim, I still think dipping into my cash reserve to the tune of $29 grand for the up front cost of my solar system would be loony tunes at the moment – and with the economy putting us into this Not So Great Depression I’m not really interested in adding that much in debt in order to pay for my panels.
So, it’s kind of hard to fulfill my global destiny as the pied piper of solar energy, the impassioned Solangelist preaching from my SunPowered pulpit at the big renewable revival meeting when my rooftop is still covering with nothing but asphalt shingles and raccoon scat. Where’s the credibility in that? Who’s going to get converted by a guy who has no inverter?
What congregation can a priest with no church preach to? Who seeks the truth from a rabbi who only knows of the Talmud but has never actually studied at any Yeshiva? You can sense the source of my solar sadness, no? It’s really solar envy to be honest with you, and it was putting a serious harsh on my holiday mellow.
My situation is exactly the same as most of America. I’d like to have me some solar, but I can’t afford it right now.
I want to do the right thing but I also want to do the smart thing heading into a year everyone is already predicting will be brutal.
And so my epiphany told me that makes me the solar everyman. And because I am also Joe the Greenius it is my job to lead the way to solar despite the tight times.
So that means first off I have to help all of us here in California take advantage of AB 811 which is supposed to make it possible for us to get low interest loans to pay for our solar systems from our cities and counties. The city and county gets the funding from a bond issue and we pay back the loans as an annual assessment on our property taxes. The law passed back in July of this year, but none of the money is flowing yet to anyone in my city of Torrance or my county of Los Angeles.
Not only isn’t the money flowing yet, neither is the basic information. You won’t find any on the city’s or county’s website.
When I first asked the folks in Torrance about applying for an 811 loan they hadn’t yet heard of the program. Linda Cessna, Deputy Community Development Director in the Community Development Department was kind enough to email me back to thank me for turning them on to the program and sending them some background information on it. When I wrote her in August she promised to check on things and get back to me. I’m still waiting to hear something.
The county of L.A. was far more responsive. After I wrote a letter to Don Knabe’s office, my county supervisor, I got a phone call from Howard Choy in the Energy Management Division for Los Angeles County.
Howard told me that he and the rest of the County’s Energy & Environmental Policy Team (created in response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s signing of AB32 – California’s Global Warming Solutions Act) is “actively investigating the feasibility of a number of State legislative and other programs. The County’s Treasure Tax Collector has already provided an assessment of the viability of the County implementing a program under AB 811. Our next steps are to work with the Public Works Department, the CEO, County Counsel and other organizations to further investigate and develop potential program.”
So the bottom line is there is no dough for Mr. Joe when it comes to AB 811. Maybe next year… but maybe not. The recession isn’t due to end anytime soon and if there’s one thing most economists seem to agree on it’s that the worst is yet to come. Great.
So I need to do something to cut the cost of my system even more than the rebates and tax credits are going to do. And I think that means I’m going to have to learn to install my solar panels myself. I’m going to have to learn how to do that and I’m going to need some help, but that’s the road I’m going to have to go down, because I think that’s the road a whole lot of us are going to have to go down.
But there are people out there who have already done it, so I’ll talk to them first.
And there are people out there who want to help and have resources to make it possible. People like Sascha Deri of the Alternative Energy Store in Hudson, Massachusetts.
“We work with a huge variety of consumers and so many of them initially believed that this technology is too difficult and complicated to install themselves. The truth is that a huge percentage of “handy” men and women could absolutely install most of the existing technology today with some assistance by licensed electrician or plumber to assure code compliance. That’s why we’ve built out a huge resource section with tons of articles and that’s why we’ve begun offering seminars and classes. We want to empower consumers and help them get ahead in the most economical way possible,” continued Deri. “We want to be your friend in Renewable Energy – that guy or gal next door who knows about this stuff and makes the installation and benefits of alternative energy an attainable goal.”
Even though Deri and his AltE group are clear across the country, they were the ones that made me start thinking I might be able to do this, or at the very least that I should find out if I AM able to do this.
Fortunately there are closer options here on the West Coast like the folks up at the Solar Living Institute up in Hopland. They’ve got all kinds of classes and workshops and I think I’m going to have to head north and see what I can learn and discover.
After all, I’m the Solangelist and I have a movement to lead.