As I stood on the sunny Oakland roof of Sierra Club member Dan Rademacher, the view toward San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge was nice. But in my mind's eye, I was marveling at an even brighter vista -- a future when all the unadorned rooftops around us would feature the solar panels like the brand new ones that Dan was happily showing off.
I don't think that future's far off. There has never been a better time for homeowners to add solar panels to their roofs. The Sierra Club is so excited about rooftop solar solutions that we've begun a pilot program in California with two solar vendors to reach out to our members and supporters and spread the good news. And we really do think it's just a matter of "getting the word out," because once homeowners find out how easy, affordable, and beneficial adding solar power is, there'll be no stopping the rooftop revolution.
Here's why you owe it to yourself to find out more:
1. If you care about the environment, rooftop solar is as green as it gets. Every kilowatt hour of solar you generate either replaces electricity that might otherwise come from burning coal or frees up some other form of energy so that it can replace electricity from burning coal. Remember: No one ever had an asthma attack because of a solar panel.
2. Solar has never been more affordable. The materials costs for solar rooftop installations have fallen dramatically, and for now, you can still benefit from significant federal and (depending on where you live) state incentives for installing solar that bring down the cost of both purchased and leased systems.
3. Solar-leasing programs, where you basically rent or purchase power from a system for 10 to 20 years, have made it possible for homeowners to put solar on their roofs for as little as $0 and still save on their utility bills. You get all the environmental benefits as well as a locked-in electrical-utility rate that will protect you against soaring electricity rates in the years ahead.
4. Rooftop solar also helps the U.S. economy by providing work for the people who design and install the systems. A stronger economy based on good green jobs at home helps us all.
5. Not only are you greening your electrical use at home but you are also making it possible to green your personal transportation by charging an EV or plug-in hybrid at home. How can you not love an energy solution that displaces both coal and oil? Ever hear of a catastrophic solar-power spill threatening fish and wildlife?
If you're interested in the Sierra Club's solar pilot program, check it out here. We're starting with just two companies and one state, but we're expecting to expand it nationwide later this year. The outlook is sunny, indeed.
Michael Brune is the Sierra Club's executive director.
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