I was laid off from my job as a software engineer in January, and I went back to work selling solar power systems for a local firm called Second Generation Energy, LLC. I prefer this line of work to writing systems for the 1%!
A couple of weeks ago, I took the company Prius for a drive through a neighborhood in Brimfield, MA, which had been devastated by killer tornados in June of last year. While no single unusual weather event can be traced directly to climate change, patterns of unusual weather certainly can be, and these torndos are part of a pattern of crazy weather we've had in the northeast these last few years. The winter of 2010-2011 saw so record setting snowfall, but this past winter saw almost no snowfall, except for a freak blizzard around Halloween! Floods, hurricanes, killer tornados - think of a towering Barry Bonds home run and his use of steroids, while you may not be able to track that specific homer to the steroids, it's highly unlikely that you would see the one without the other. We are, today, experiencing wild weather swings and climate change is the culprit.
The damage is still evident - play the short video below to see some of the after effects still in evidence today:
Once upon a time, that area was heavily forested - now, not so much. One person was killed in Brimfield, and I spoke with a man who told me how he, his wife and their 4 year old daughter huddled in the basement while their house was ripped off the foundation over their heads. Follow me past the orange squiggle of doom for more discussion...
I grew up in a big family in Connecticut during the sixties, in the days before that noted Commie Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. Ah, the good old days, when Republicans espoused good governance...
I was the sixth child of seven, and my mom would always take us to the Uniroyal factory in Naugatuck when we needed sneakers, she could get decent factory "seconds" for a low price there. The factory was situated on the Naugatuck River, and it belched enormous volumes of steaming chemical solutions out of huge pipes into the river, day and night. The river smelled horrible, and it ran a sickly yellow-green color from that point until it merged with the Housatonic River many miles to the south. It was lifeless, and unsafe for any use.
In this same time frame, the Cuyhoga River in Ohio actually caught fire. Why did corporations pollute the earth in this manner? Simple - there was no law against it. The need for the EPA was clearly evident - you could see it, you could smell it, you could actually taste it, and if you got too close, it would make your eyes water. This, I think, is one reason why it is so difficult to convince people that carbon pollution is a problem - since they can't sense it in any real way, it's easier for them to deny that it's happening, or at least believe the lies of folks who want them to believe it's not happening. So, what do we do?
Someone smarter than me once said "you can't reason someone out of a position they weren't reasoned into". So if the climate change deniers won't listen to environmental reason, then maybe economic reason will appeal to them. Here in Massachusetts, we have established a program called the Clean Energy Center to spur everyone to adopt renewable power solutions, and it's working. From the CEC web site:
Massachusetts is leading the way in innovative and comprehensive energy reform that will make clean energy a centerpiece of the Commonwealth’s economic future. Created by the Green Jobs Act of 2008, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) is dedicated to accelerating the success of clean energy technologies, companies and projects in the Commonwealth—while creating high-quality jobs and long-term economic growth for the people of Massachusetts. MassCEC is a partner, clearinghouse and connector for people in the clean energy sector, making direct investments in clean energy companies, building a strong clean energy workforce, and supporting responsibly sited renewable energy projects across the Commonwealth. MassCEC works with the entire clean energy community in Massachusetts to propel promising technologies from the drawing board to the global marketplace.The CEC is funded by a small charge on everyone's electric bill - it costs me under $1.00 per month on mine. They make millions of dollars available for rebates on residential solar power systems, and they are doing a fantastic job of spurring the solar power industry in this state. For residential installations, the current round of rebates provide up to $4,250, and properties impacted by natural disasters, like the houses in the video above, can get as much as $5,000 more.
In addition to the rebates from the CEC, there is a 30% federal tax credit and a 15% state tax credit (capped at $1,000). The remaining system costs are wiped out by direct savings on the household electric bill and through the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates. For every megawatt-hour of power the system produces, the homeowner earns one SREC - a typical 5 kW system will produce 6 per year. By law, SRECS have a floor price of $300 each, and at the end of 2011, they sold for $540 each. Typical residential solar power systems pay for themselves in 4-5 years as a result of these incentives. SRECs accrue for the first ten years of system ownership, and the system will produce power for almost 40 years.
But it gets better - solar leasing is making these systems even more affordable. We have 20 year leases for as little as zero down - these leases put cash into our customer's pockets in the first year of ownership. Alternatively, you can prepay the lease up front and turn an even greater profit over the life of the system, better than purchasing the system outright. Our leases let the customer keep the SRECs, something not offered by many of our competing firms. We have several firms willing to pre-purchase 10 years worth of SRECs at a decent price, making a lease even more affordable. Contact me for more information - send me a Kosmail or use my email address, it's in my profile.
Massachusetts is leading the way - who will follow us into a renewable future?
UPDATE: Thanks for the rescue! My first time on Community Spotlight...