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August 02, 2011

The Golden State Goes Solar

Recent solar panel projects at Yosemite National Park, FedEx Field, and even Chevrolet dealerships, are harbingers that our nation’s energy attitudes are changing—dirty fuels are slowly phasing out and solar energy is now in vogue as a smart investment. 

Yosemite-solar-panels-solar-worldAnd it's about time, as coal plants take a heavy toll on Americans everyday in dollars, in polluted waters and air, and in lives. It is for this reason that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has partnered with the Sierra Club to move America Beyond Coal within the next 10 years.  

But California residents are proving that you don't need to be a multi-billionaire to help reach a clean energy future. The Sierra Club’s new solar pilot program in The Golden State is a testament that solar can actually be affordable and feasible in local communities.  

California’s “rooftop revolution” empowers homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs, and protect their finances and the environment at the same time. Enabled by a close partnership with solar gurus at two of California's leading solar providers, Sungevity and SunRun, California residents now have access to easy, affordable solar. Through solar leasing, the companies provide all maintenance work, service, and insurance under the lease, and will even provide a contribution to the Sierra Club's work to end dependence on dirty energy for each Sierra Club member who decides to go solar.  

For hesitant homeowners, this program solves two large concerns about solar energy, cost and efficiency—an average Sungevity customer saves 15% on all energy costs. SunRun has some great success stories about people who've decided to go solar-powered. 

Recent studies at MIT may even lower photovoltaic cell production costs even more in the near future. Developments in thermal photovoltaic cells have increased energy efficiency capabilities to three times that of a Li-ion battery (used to charge many cell phones,) and the invention of a paper-thin PV cell could provide more portable solutions to powering small electronics in the future.  

It’s clear that solutions to our dirty energy dependence are becoming Bildemore feasible and widely available today. Now, it’s just a matter of putting them into action and investing in clean energy choices over the unsustainable ones that make our communities and children sick.    

Installing solar panels on your roof many seem like just one small step for your family.  But as a collaborative effort across America, it will be one giant leap for our nation to move beyond coal and towards a more sustainable future. 

Ready to get off the grid and see if solar is for you? Check out this nifty website that calculates solar efficiency and cost for your home at the click of a mouse.

-- Laura Wandres, Sierra Club Media Intern. Yosemite's solar array photo courtesy of SolarWorld.Thin solar cell photo courtesy of The Washington Post.

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