Why We Need More than Rooftops to Win the War Against Climate Change

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Many environmentalists claim that we don’t need utility scale solar in our deserts because we could simply solar power America from our rooftops. Technically, this is true. Most houses do have the space for it. However, that fact alone is not enough. As someone who asks people if they would like to get (free) solar on their roof, for a living, I have disappointing news. A surprising number wouldn’t.

I would suggest that anyone who thinks that we can simply put solar on every roof, pick a block in any neighborhood, walk to each house and ask for yourselves.

Here’s what you’ll find:

Only six will have perfect solar roofs: but two of them will have been led to believe that solar power is a socialist plot; two will be renters who only wished they could go solar; and two will be too rich to bother about saving money or the environment. Two would love it, but their spouse won’t allow anything on the roof.

Four will indeed wish they could go solar, but have trees shading the roof, or have a mishmash of gables facing the wrong way (there must be some rule that if you love renewable energy and really want to do something about climate change, your roof will be just all wrong for solar!)

Three more will really just be unable to conceive of making their own electricity from solar. One can’t imagine how solar could be free, but is willing to take a look at it, but really wants to get back to watching American Idol.

One would love to do it but needs to fix the roof first and lacks the money for roof repair. One will be too old to contemplate any change. Only one will say: absolutely, let’s do it – that’s a really terrific idea!

And this is for free solar, because I’m telling them about a solar PPA: it competes with the utility with a lower price per kilowatt hour, so the cost issue has been resolved. This is how I learned that no matter how brilliant the solution to the impediments to solar adoption the free market alone will never put solar on every roof, the way that it put TV cable antennas on every roof.

This is why I support Feed in Tariffs and REC sales, so that people could actually earn cash from their solar roofs, as I think that could tip the scales more. And it’s why I support utility-scale solar. As individual consumers, we are all too fallible to be relied on to solve something as serious as climate change.

Or, here’s an idea. The government should use its wartime powers. It could simply requisition this energy resource beating down on all our roofs… almost as if we were in a war against climate change.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter
Image: Desert Vu

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