Out with the Old: A Coal Plant Protest in My Hometown

The spewing smokestacks of Brayton Point have always been prominent landmarks in my life. On a road trip with family or friends, seeing the brown towers spring up on the horizon, in a strange way, represented home. Of course, as a child I had no idea that the coal and gas/oil-fired plant was the largest of its kind in New England and one of the largest in the U.S. at more than 1,500 megawatts (MW). But growing up in the town of Somerset, Mass., I got so used to the billowing plumes of smoke and faint hum of machinery that it was almost as if the plant wasn’t there – as if it was just another part of the landscape.

As time passed, I heard more and more stories of cancer, asthma and other respiratory issues. Residents and nearby communities would blame Brayton Point, but no one would ever be certain of their claims. Animosity toward the plant certainly grew, but it never transitioned into any substantial action.

Flash forward to this past weekend, where 400+ protestors from around the U.S. gathered in the small town and marched to Brayton Point, calling for Mass. governor Deval Patrick to come up with a plan to shutter the plant. Organized by 350.org and Better Future Action, the peaceful crowd carried mock wind turbines and solar panels to demonstrate alternatives to coal.

Written by Meg Cichon. To read the full article, click here.


Home Solar Lease: Pro and Con

In 2008, a company called SolarCity announced that instead of just selling homeowners photovoltaic panels, it would offer them with no-money-down lease options. That turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to the solar business, and several other companies (including SunRun and Sungevity, which works with Lowe’s) have followed its lead. You can now lease a home solar array just about everywhere, including through Home Depot with SolarCity, but the question remains—should you?

Peter Rive, the chief operating officer of SolarCity, says it’s a good deal. “Customers get the benefits of solar panels without a big cash outlay, and they can do it with zero down. We want people to think of it as a pay-for-use benefit, which is just what your utility company does now. When they do an equipment upgrade, they don’t ask you to pay for it. It’s a flat monthly fee, similar to our lease.”

Google announced that earlier this month that it is investing an astounding $280 million in SolarCity, which is one big vote of confidence in solar leasing. Google’s previous headline energy investments were related to wind power, so this is a shift that shows it likes the business case. (You can buy panels through SolarCity, but the leasing plan is growing faster.) The company currently has 15,000 customers, and recently expanded to the east coast from its California base. Sungevity (which offers 10-year leases compared to SolarCity’s 15) is also growing, with a $24 million in financing from U.S. Bancorp.

Written by Jim Motavalli. To read the full article, click here.

Listen Up: Top Ten Questions about Residential Solar Power

Like many home improvement projects, solar power can be complicated. Unfortunately, the solar industry make it worse; sometimes it’s like manufacturers and installers speak a completely different language. To make matters more challenging, there are literally hundreds of companies, almost all of whom have great products at the “best” price. So how do you as a consumer decide what system is best for your home or business?

From “How much does a solar system cost?” to “What kind of maintenance does rooftop solar need?”, this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World will answer the top ten questions about residential solar power. So if you are thinking about solar power for your home or business, be sure to listen to this podcast.

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

Written by Barry Cinnamon. To read the full article, click here.