This week the solar group discount company 1BOG launched a Long Island Solar group discount campaign with one of the lowest prices for solar in the US.
Long Island, New York is the site of the infamous Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, a $6 billion boondoggle that was shut down in 1989 without ever producing commercial electricity. Ratepayers were forced to pick up the tab and they’ve been paying some of the nation’s highest electricity rates ever since. Now solar power is on the verge of offering a way out, at least for some property owners.
One Block off the Grid (1BOG), which hosts CleanTechnica, is an organization that arranges group discounts for home solar power between property owners and solar energy installers. The organization has launched discount campaigns around the country (find solar in your city). Based on current electricity rates and typical electricity usage, it calculates that a typical solar installation on Long Island would pay for itself in about four years – one of the shortest payback times in the country.
The Trouble with Nuclear Power
As the U.S. finally begins to shift away from fossil fuels, nuclear power has emerged as one “renewable” energy alternative. However, as illustrated by the Shoreham debacle – and forewarned by the Gulf oil spill – there are obvious safety risks that overwhelm other considerations. In the case of Shoreham, planners ignored repeated warnings that the plant was located near a major flight path, in an area designated as a “high hazard” due to nearby military facilities. They also failed to account for the suburbanization of the once-rural area, which made an evacuation plan all but impossible. The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear accidents pretty much dealt a death blow to the plant, and eventually the state was forced to take it over.
Nuclear Power and the Human Factor
Speaking of the Gulf oil spill, Long Island residents were forewarned about the unreliability of human response to disasters when Hurricane Gloria hit the area in 1985. While of course the Long Island utility company (LILCO) that owned the plant was not responsible for the weather, it was responsible for dealing with subsequent power outages. Some areas were without power for up to two weeks while LILCO’s chairman vacationed in Italy, which hardly instilled local confidence in the company’s ability to manage any disaster, whether manmade or natural. Forewarned is forearmed, and four years later the plant was shut down. Now in addition to paying higher electricity rates, local residents are stuck with a huge dormant facility that is too expensive to dismantle and takes up valuable real estate. The situation is bad enough but as Gulf Coast residents are discovering, the alternative could have been far worse.
Many Paths to More Affordable Solar Energy
Between government rebates, utility company solar projects, and community-based solar projects, there are a growing number of ways to access affordable solar energy. For property owners who are considering an individual solar installation, 1BOG takes out much of the legwork. The organization thoroughly vets its solar installers (the Long Island solar installer is award winning Mercury Solar Systems, which will do all Long Island installations at a discount of almost 20%), and provides free guidance and information from real people as well as on its website. Before the property owner commits to an installation, the installer performs a free home evaluation too. You can use 1BOG’s solar estimate tool to estimate the cost of solar panels for your home.
Solar Energy and Green Jobs
One advantage of locally sited renewable energy is the potential to create new jobs in local communities. Though the renewable energy grid of the future will include many large central generators such as midwestern wind farms, small onsite mini-power plants will also be a big part of the picture.
Image: Sunset on Long Island by bensonkua on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.