Going Solar

The costs and benefits of alternative energy

Little Miss Sunshine

Did you know the White House used to have solar panels on its roof, way back in the 1970s? The Carter administration installed them; then the Reagan administration tore them down. The Bush administration put a few in — just to heat the pool. At last, the Obama administration installed them again en masse and we can only hope they’re allowed to stay put now and do their job.

A video from Mental Floss recounts the uneasy relationship that the First Family over the decades has had with alternative sources of energy.

Jimmy Carter’s Short-Lived White House Solar Panels

I find this, and most stories about the fits-and-starts way the world has moved to harness solar power, fascinating. Why, for example, are states like Nevada, Utah, and California not papered with these panels? Every flat roof without a panel on it in the desert Southwest feels like a tremendous waste of potential. Even Walmart agrees.

At least America has gotten better with regards to solar power and keeps trending in the right direction, as per Energy.gov:

Last year was a record-breaking year for new solar installations, and the total amount of solar power installed in the United States has increased approximately 26-fold — from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 29.3 gigawatts in the first quarter of 2016, enough to power more than 5.7 million American homes.

In 2008, the entire country only generated enough gigawatts to power one trip back to the future!

Thankfully, we now generate enough for dozens of sequels.

We still lag behind world leader Germany, which is hilarious, since Germany has far less, you know, sunshine. A Times story about a cute little English village that has been effective at going carbon-neutral using solar, as well as other alternative energy sources — despite the fact that it’s IN ENGLAND, where the sun hasn’t been, even to visit, since 1769 — should put a place like Arizona to shame.

Part of the problem is that while solar has lots of potential as a clean power source, the start-up costs are high, so using solar becomes more doable, ironically, in countries like Germany that are cash-rich but sunshine-poor. Various American states are getting in on the subsidies game, though, in an attempt to reach — and eventually benefit — more residents, not merely wealthy ones. Hey, maybe you even qualify?

Many States Set to Give Solar Panels To Middle Class Families at No Cost

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