|By John Savageau||
|October 18, 2009 07:37 PM EDT||
"If everyone purchasing a room air conditioner in 2009 chooses an ENERGY STAR qualified model, it would save 390 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. That would prevent more than 600 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year—equivalent to taking more than 50,000 cars off the road—and save consumers over $43 million each year in energy bills." (Pickens Plan Fact of the Day, 8 Oct 09)
California has always prided itself as being a leader in alternative energy innovation. Driving through the hills around Livermore, Palm Springs, or between San Diego and Yuma bring skylines full of wind turbines. The California Energy Commission claims that wind turbines generated 6,802 gigawatt-hours of electricity - about 2.3 percent of the state's gross system power. By the end of 2009 California actually expects to hit nearly 5% energy production from renewable sources.
While the wind turbine program has slowed down a bit due to animal rights groups objecting to bird casualties due to propeller strikes, California has not slowed down at all in the state's aggressive goals for green energy production. While it is probably a bit too aggressive, California's Energy Commission has set a goal of hitting 20% by the end of 2010 (Senate Bill 107), and 33% by the end of 2020 (Executive Order S-14-08).
The US Congress is shooting for 20% renewable energy production nationwide by 2010 – a far lower threshold than desired in California.
Energy Programs and Incentives in California
Each state has some level of renewable energy initiative supporting energy efficient homes. California's program falls under the "The California Energy Commission's New Solar Homes Partnership" (NSHP). This is a great resource not only for existing home owners in California, but also those persons planning to build new structures. The objectives of NSHP's program include:
In the Home
A solar home with high energy-efficiency features offers homeowners:
- Clean, renewable energy
- Utility bill savings
- Predictable utility costs
- Protection against future rising electricity costs
California is also offering financial incentives to homebuilders to design energy efficiency and the potential of renewable energy planning into the new home. Solar energy "is one of the most significant personal actions one can take to cut air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while helping to conserve precious energy resources for future generations. Plus, it reduces the need for costly new power plants" according to the NSHP.
All California homeowners implementing solar panels in their homes also qualify for the federal tax credits up to $2000.
An unscientific jog around the Sunset Canyon Drive area of Burbank on 17 Oct 2009 tallied around 1 of every 5 homes observed supporting some level of solar panel on the property, visible from street level. Using guidelines from the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) you will see the average family in the Los Angeles area will save nearly $714 a year with solar panels supplementing their electrical supply.
For us apartment and condo-dwellers, that could almost pay 100% of our energy requirement during normal conditions, if we have a means of storing energy during evening hours and period of bad weather.
Don't forget our earlier discussions on other simple things such as painting your rooftop white, or using solar reflective material on your roof to reduce the amount of heat in your home during the summer. By the way… you also get a one-time energy credit for that simple task.
"More than 50% of the energy used in a typical American home is for space heating and cooling. Much of that conditioned air escapes through poorly sealed, under-insulated attics. Only 20% of homes built before 1980 are well insulated. Properly sealing and insulating your attic can save you up to 10% annually on energy bills." (Pickens Plan Fact of the Day7 Oct 2009)
In Commercial Sites
Companies such as the Bank of America (in Riverside, California) have built their facility with solar covering the entire rooftop of the building. Not only do they enjoy a tremendous savings in energy costs, but with a commercial property the BoA will receive a 30% federal construction tax credit, accelerated equipment depreciation, and additional financing support to help defray the cost of installing renewable energy resources.
California will tack on an additional incentive of $1.90 per watt up to a 1Megawatt solar panel system.
All focused on getting us to that 20% milestone in 2010, and the world-leading 33% renewable energy target for 2020.
Some Resources to Look at During Energy Awareness Month (October)
The State of California, California's energy utilities, and the US Department of Energy have great resources to guide us in meeting our energy awareness and energy planning goals. Here is a partial list, but a great start. The Internet and Google searches will help lead you further.
- The California Energy Commission Home
- California Renewable Energy Handbook
- Go Solar California Home
- California Solar Initiative
- SoCal Edison solar initiative website
- PG&E solar initiative website
- State of California CSI rebate calculator
- US Department of Energy Solar Initiatives
- The Pickens Plan
What Are You Doing?
Share your energy stories with us. What has worked for you? What has failed? Are you an alternative and reneable energy skeptic like Texas' Governor Rick Perry? Are you an energy leader? Let us know.
John Savageau, Long Beach
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