07/03/2012: The arrival of summer and longer days fosters images of sunshine and surf to many. To this writer it means the opportunity for more ‘green’ energy. A major survey of homeowners indicates that Americans are more concerned about lowering their energy bills than taking a vacation.
According to a survey by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that asked people to rank their financial priorities, less than 20 percent of the respondents rated a summer trip or buying the latest smartphone or tablet as a priority, while the majority said lowering electricity costs and making homes energy-efficient are important.
The survey is more evidence that energy costs, especially in a struggling economy, is a growing national issue and explains why the topic is being debated in the presidential campaign. Nearly 80 percent of respondents called energy “deeply important” to them, which was of higher importance than the environment and the federal deficit. The only issues that polled higher than energy were the economy, education and health care.
Another encouraging statistic was that nearly 90 percent of the respondents had taken some action in the last year to save energy by installing more energy-saving appliances, turning off the lights and turning down the heat or the air conditioning.
As the chairman of the Rockland Business Association’s Green Council, these survey findings help reinforce my belief that solar energy is the solution to our nation’s rising energy costs. If one believes Dr. Daniel Nocera from MIT, solar energy is the only long-term energy solution to our planet. He calculates the earth now uses 13 terawatts each day and by 2050 will need 30 terawatts. The 800 terawatts of solar energy that reaches the earth each day is the only long term, sustainable solution to our energy needs.
Several years ago, I decided to practice what I preach. I installed photovoltaic solar panels from a highly regarded national company -- Real Goods Solar -- on my New City office. Since then, the panels have offset about 35 percent of my company’s monthly electric bills and have reduced CO2 emissions by over 18,000 pounds. The system is on track to pay for itself in seven years. We didn’t just stop at the roof, we have adopted many other sustainable strategies that help us use 51% less energy, 56% less potable water, and 53% less waste sent to a landfill. By harvesting rainwater and daylight and installing high performance lighting, windows and HVAC systems, we were able to achieve these impressive gains.
New York State is very solar friendly. The state offers several incentives to make the move to solar. New financing options allow you to go solar for as little as no money down. The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) also offers cash incentives for renewable energy, which could save you up to 35 percent on installation costs. The organization also offers certified inspections for a home energy audit, which is an easy way to supplement a renewable energy installation.
While other parts of the country are moving quickly to solar energy, New Yorkers remain slow to adopt it. This is difficult to understand considering the potential savings to businesses and homeowners along with the state’s policies designed to promote it.
Solar energy is a smart way to help mitigate rising energy costs while helping the environment at the same time. It’s time for Rockland to join the party