08 October 2012

Solar Priorities

Bng Bng | Cory Doctorow | Tool to calculate benefit of rooftop solar in Cambridge, Mass

Gmoke sez, "The city of Cambridge, Mass has teamed up with MIT to produce a Solar Tool that allows people to type an address into a website and get a detailed account of that roof's solar electric potential. This is probably the most detailed service now existing and every building in Cambridge is covered. You can learn how much of your roof sees enough sun for a PV installation, how large that PV installation can be, how much it will cost, how high your Federal and state tax rebate will be, how much electricity it will produce in a year, and how much carbon it will displace."
Is it a coincidence that tax rebates take precedence to electricity production is this feature list? I would hope it is, but I'm not so sure.

I recently found out one of my cousins is in the solar panel sales business. Five or six times in our conversation about his work he repeated to me something along the lines of "our customers would be stupid not to buy solar panels! Once you factor in tax credits and loan guarantees and favorable depreciation rates and blah blah blah they can get a million dollar installation for fifty or sixty grand. It's like free money!" This was the entirety of his reasoning about why companies should buy.

He did seem to have even considered whether the relative $/kWh between bought and self-generated power made the investment worthwhile. ("No honey, I will never wear these shoes, and no I do not need them, but they're 90% off! I would be stupid not to buy them with a deal that good!")

He also did not seem to understand when I told him it's not "free money," it's "other people's money" and those other people are us. Cue Upton Sinclair:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

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