A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak about solar power at a Yogi’s Beyond Coal event. In spite of my passion for communication, I am not much of a public speaker and adding amplification usually makes it that much worse. But- if you are always encouraging others to conquer their fears, it doesn’t leave much wiggle room – right?
So, I spoke and much to my surprise, I had a wonderful time and people were appreciative of what I had to say. I think the appreciation was because I shared good news- not bad news, but good news. All too often, we focus on what is wrong (myself included) as opposed to what is right. Yogi’s Beyond Coal is about shutting down coal fired power plants – a mighty and noble goal- and, an incredibly worthwhile endeavor as coal fired plants are the biggest contributors to climate change, not to mention the local health hazards these plants pose. Rather than dwell on climate change or coal ash ponds or hazardous chemicals coming from smokestacks- I focused on solar.
I have been living on solar power since sometime in 1995. I love living on solar! In our mountains, power does occasionally go out across the area from storms. We never know the power has gone out- solar doesn’t go out. Not only do I feel great about living on solar, I feel pretty great about working to make it available to everyone that wants it. Solar is a real solution. The price of residential PV systems continues to come down. Right now, solar is costing in the neighborhood of less than $3.50 per watt and it is predicted that soon, about 2018 – even if coal were free to burn, power stations won’t be able to compete with solar!
No mining, no blowing the tops off mountains, no burning, no coal ash ponds, no toxic burden, and no compromise – solar makes use of the sun, which is shining and sending us energy continuously.
It is completely possible to go solar and North Carolina is a great place to do it! North Carolina is actually #2 in the nation for installed PV in 2013 (woo hoo) AND- more people are now employed in the solar industry than in the mining industry AND Germany just produced a record 50% of its electricity needs through solar in June- a huge milestone on the march to renewable energy!
There was a recent program in Asheville- “Solarize Asheville” –and through this program we were able to sign up 50 Asheville homeowners to have solar electric systems installed in their homes. From young families to retirees, the group is incredibly diverse. The average system installed is about 4.2 kW.
The collective impact of these 50 systems is that about 226,000 pounds of coal will be displaced by clean solar each year. That translates to an offset of about 210 metric tons of carbon dioxide not going into the atmosphere.
Another way to think of these systems, in terms of carbon, is in carbon sequestered. These 50 systems are approximate to the carbon sequestered by about 5,394 little tree seedlings that have grown for about 10 years.
In what now seems like another lifetime, my husband and I worked at Greenpeace. We loved working at Greenpeace- every day, for years. But there came a time when we both felt we just couldn’t focus on the problems anymore and we really wanted to focus on the solutions. This was the birth of our company, Sundance Power Systems – we design and install renewable energy systems. And- the thing about renewable energy systems? It’s a solution- this is the reality of renewable energy – every single system installed is a victory. Every system installed takes us one step closer to the world we all want to live in- sustainable, clean, healthy and renewable.