Sunday, February 3, 2008

Solar for everyone

One of the reasons I like living in California is simple: the weather is nice. That fact also logically leads to something inexplicable. Given abundant sunlight, why isn't there far more solar power in California?

That's a fine question.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't have solar panels on my roof. I'd very much like to, but capital requirements exceed my present means. Still, I'd very much like to have at least a small setup sitting up there in the sun. (Even on stormy days, like today, there's significant amounts of sun!)

So, here's a small proposal: all new homes in California should be required to have solar panels pre-installed. Given the cost of housing around here (the median is rather north of half a million), tacking on an extra $15k or so doesn't seem like a high cost. Of course, this would only cover new construction. We'll clearly need to consider some sort of plan to encourage installation on older homes. That's where the government can help out - although it's worth noting that the state government is doing a reasonable job of offering tax incentives and rebates, especially given the current fiscal environment.

Solar's not the answer to everything, of course. There's that whole nighttime and no light problem. I also read somewhere about the carbon cost of producing solar panels, and it's pretty high. That's rather disconcerting. It's certainly possible to reduce that, since all of the energy required to produce them could come from alternative energy sources like, uh, solar. Assuming that the costs of producing solar power devices can be greatly reduced, there's little reason to not get solar going in large fractions of the US. That should certainly help to get the country closer to being energy independent.

There's a lot more to say about this, so I'll return to the general topic of global warming, energy policy, etc., soon.

1 comment:

Tom said...

David wrote " ... I don't have solar panels on my roof. I'd very much like to, but capital requirements exceed my present means."

Why haven't you done it? As you note later, the governments do a reasonable job to bring the costs down through incentives, tax credits, etc. You should be able to borrow the money to "solarify" your house and increase your payment by less $100.

You are not willing to spend the money yourself, yet you propose that government force others to spend the money.

This is a perfect illustration of the upper-middle-class liberal mindset. You feel guilty because don't do something that you think is good. Rather than actually DO THE THING, you want to have government make other people do the thing. It is perfect; it assuages your guilt without any meaningful change to your actual life!

BTW, this is the company for which I work, which is doing rather than just pontificating.