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Solar Works

Sep 27, 2017

To the Editor:

Regarding the column titled “Solar Welfare” (9/20), I feel strongly about this issue and feel compelled to reply.

First, let me say that people install solar panels on their houses because they are concerned about global warming and want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, they are trying to save the world. I think that’s a great thing, and I think we need more of it.

I am sorry the writer had a bad experience with an old solar hot water system. I personally had one of those systems in the last house I owned, and it worked perfectly for over 35 years. It saved me approximately $1,000 per year in hot water heating costs, and reduced the amount of carbon dioxide that would otherwise have been emitted by my hot water heater.

Yes, it is true that many solar electric panels are not positioned to maximize solar production. This is because not every house faces at the perfect angle to the sun. I have 18 solar electric panels on my new house, which faces south-southwest, not due south. Yes, maybe I had to have an extra solar panel or two installed at my own expense because of the way my house was oriented. So what? I bought my new panels with my own money and paid a local installer (who employs his own full-time people who get medical benefits), and they work great.

Instead of buying, many people lease the panels, in which case they don’t own them. They put out no money up front, but receive a discount on their electric bill from the lessor. The lessor is responsible for all maintenance including removal from the roof at the end of their useful life, which is around 25 years.

Yes, it is true that New Jersey has more domestic solar installations than most other states, which I think is a great thing. I, too, am frustrated when I go to states like South Carolina and see virtually none. The main reason for this is simply that our state government requires energy-generating companies (Atlantic City Electric where I live) to take back the excess electricity that I generate.

So, if my panels generate, say, 300 kWh in a month but I only use 200 kWh, then my new electric meter actually spins backwards. I am, in effect, sending my excess electricity back into the grid for use by others. People can also purchase batteries and store all their electricity inside their house if they want, but for me that did not make economic sense.

As to “solar welfare,” here are the facts. The state requires its electricity providers to generate a certain percentage of power from renewable energy (20 percent by year 2021). People like me who install their own solar systems can help the utility meet that goal. Yes, I will receive a one-time 30 percent federal tax credit for the installation cost. And, in exchange for the generation of my own solar power to help the electric company meet its “renewable portfolio standard,” I will receive solar recovery energy credits (SRECs) from the electric company.

I have absolutely no guilt about helping my utility meet its mandated requirements. If anyone disagrees with these mandated renewable energy requirements, they should contact the state Board of Public Utilities or their elected representatives, and not blame the individual solar panel owners.

I am certainly proud that I have taken this step to reduce my own carbon footprint to help reduce global warming for the planet. And I am glad that New Jersey requires its electric providers to include renewable energy. But much more needs to be done. Global warming caused by burning of fossil fuels on this planet must be reduced, through actions by individual citizens and by county, state, national and international governments.

At the national level, I firmly believe that a “carbon fee and dividend” approach is the best way to help address global warming. It is a conservative approach; it is revenue neutral. The fee assessed on oil, natural gas and coal will be returned equally to all U.S. citizens, in the form of a monthly check. The increased cost of these fuels provides a market-based incentive to reduce CO2 emissions. A level playing field with other countries is assured through a border adjustment tax, imposed on imported goods from countries without a similar carbon fee. And lastly, a REMI study has shown that the monthly checks will actually help boost the economy, increase GDP and create many jobs in the U.S.

For more information please see citizensclimatelobby.org.

William Harclerode

Little Egg Harbor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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