Monday, April 14, 2008

Take solar power out of the shade

Take solar power out of the shade
by Deepak Seth
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 14, 2008

As we deal with the vagaries of spring weather, the thought of solar energy being the panacea to deal with our rising energy costs seems pretty far-fetched.But evidently it is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Germany on an average receives significantly less sunshine than New York but is currently the world leader, accounting for nearly 50 percent of a global solar industry valued at $16 billion.

This and many other such interesting facts were highlighted by Jigar Shah, chief strategy officer of SunEdison, the leading solar energy service provider in North America.Shah was the keynote speaker at the annual banquet of the India Community Center.

With the current focus on the environment and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, solar energy enjoys more uniform support from the public than any other technology.In a survey, 89 percent of Ohio residents indicated that they were willing to pay 50 cents or more extra per month for solar power. Wind power is also environmentally friendly but suffers from "not in my backyard'' syndrome.

Many people and companies worry about the high upfront costs associated with solar power. However, solar is now moving from the expensive to the competitive state. Nuclear, coal and natural gas power plant costs have increased significantly. Transmission infrastructure has increased in cost and takes significantly longer to implement. Distributed technologies such as solar can be built quickly, averting power crises more effectively.

The entire power needs of the country can be met by 10,000 square miles of solar generating systems in the Nevada desert. But you do not even have to look farther than your own roof for installation of solar generation systems.

Several big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kohl's, and J.C. Penney are already taking a lead in installing rooftop, solar power generation systems. Each year, more than 2 billion square feet of new roofs are installed. Brownfields, airports, wastewater treatment facilities and public lands are excellent sites.

I would love to see organizations in the greater Rochester area — town boards, county and city offices, school boards and the Rochester airport take the lead in evaluating and adopting this technology.

Another sunny side of this story: As a distributed resource, solar generates more jobs that any other renewable energy technology per megawatt hour. Implementing solar initiatives upstate can arguably fuel $1 billion in economic growth — 1,000 job years of employment while reducing the growth of electricity prices by half.

Community members serve on the Editorial Board and write regular columns.

1 comment:

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