Energy for Justice: Solar Energy for Lowest-Incomes
February 26, 2012
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I had a talk with a friend yesterday about her desire to install solar panels in her home, but how the $8,000 and up price tag, despite rebates and tax incentives, was too much to handle. “What we need,” she said, “is for any Joe Shmo to be able to go down to Home Depot and get a small solar unit and plug it into his patio. They need to be available at every price point.” Today, I see this, and while not directly addressing her point, it’s addressing an underlying need: people of all income levels can see the benefit to using alternative energy, whether it be lower energy costs, more independence from NYSEG, or the ecological, long-term benefits of energy that comes from sustainable sources. It’s great to see this technology benefiting individuals who are the least able to take part.
About a year ago, Susan posted an article from the New York Times about conservation efforts in Kansas – a place where they think Al Gore is a wacko (OK, just the interviewees thought that) but who saw a patriotic duty to be frugal. In this area, however, “folks think that perhaps conserving energy is not very patriotic in West Virginia,” said Michelle Connor, executive director of Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity in Franklin, W.Va. For the past decade, her organization has built Environmental Protection Agency-friendly homes, some with solar panels. Resistance doesn’t usually come from the families who need the help — they’re facing utility bills that can be quadruple their $150 monthly rent.
Instead, it comes from the local and state officials who see a hidden agenda in renewable energy. “People automatically assume it means we’re anti-mountaintop removal or that we’re anti-coal,” she said. Coal remains a huge presence and employer in Philippi, but New Vision’s clients can’t afford not to try an alternative, however unusual Mr. Prusa’s panels or Mr. Seaman’s mission might look here. “Energy is energy,” said Mr. Prusa. “Once you have it captured, you can do anything with it.”"