The project was done by Sunlight Solar Systems. Cammy Staker, owner of the local company, notes that several members of the congregation have since contacted the company, looking to convert their own homes, or looking for a green way to power electric cars. The Church’s “Environmental Minister’s 2012-2013 Annual Report” claims that so far over 50 solar panel installations are as a direct result of the First Unitarian Church’s Community Solar Project. The Environmental Ministry is now in the process of looking at peaks and valleys in electrical use to better understand how to fine-tune their efforts. “Is First Unitarian Church 100% walking our talk? No—I wish I could say we were—I wish we could all say we were! But we’re all trying, and I think that’s essential,” concludes Gregory. u (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs). But if we are to realize our full renewable energy potential, we must make a major departure from the old energy business model.” What are alternatives to utility-scale solar? One option is “brownfield” development. Brownfields are defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as areas where “reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” The areas are already so badly impacted that building big solar arrays would not damage a functioning ecosystem. Another option is distributed solar, sometimes called “rooftop” solar: People pay to install their own solar panels, and a meter credits the value of energy produced to their electrical bill. Utility don’t earn any revenue from home electricity generation. However, if enough people had solar panels on their roof, it could generate enough electricity to eliminate the need for new utilityscale power plants, whether solar, coal, nuclear or hydropower (this is already happening Germany, a place not exactly known for its sunny climate). A third option is policies that promote solar development on private land rather than continuing to subsidize energy development with the sacrifice of America’s public lands. It may seem counterintuitive that environmentalists could be simultaneously in favor of clean energy development and opposed to solar energy development on public lands. However, the Solar Energy Development Programmatic EIS envisions solar energy development as just like fossil-fuel extraction, only with solar panels. That’s a problem.
In developing an entirely new solar energy infrastructure, we also have a chance to develop a less destructive model for energy production and delivery. Coal-fired power plants need to be built out in the sticks because nobody wants to live next to dirty emissions, but solar panels can be easily integrated into the built environment. For example, Salt Lake City Corporation has created a 3D model of the city to analyze the solar potential for every square meter in the city. You can easily figure out the potential of your own roof to supply power. As Solar Done Right says, “Habitat destruction threatens the diversity of life on our planet. Renewable energy strategies that damage habitat
Coal-fired power plants need to be built out in the sticks because nobody wants to live next to dirty emissions, but solar panels can be easily integrated into the built environment. only make the problem worse. Distributed generation such as rooftop solar is the faster, cheaper, cleaner and more effective way of meeting our energy needs in the next century.” u BLM Solar Energy Development Programmatic EIS: SOLAREIS.ANL.GOV. SOLAR DONE RIGHT: SOLARDONERIGHT.ORG. Smart Solar. Salt Lake City Solar Potential: SLCGOVSOLAR.COM
Wasatch Commons goes solar
asatch Commons, the cohousing community west of downtown, has recently installed solar panels. The panels will produce enough energy to power all of their common electrical needs, as well as two electric cars. Their new solar array is made up of 49 panels, each seven feet square, generating 11,760 watts total. They’re expecting 21,400 kilowatts of energy per year, equating to a savings of $2,000 per year and a reduction of 44,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. The project is the culmination of five years work and planning, and is made possible through a Rocky Mountain Power solar rebate program. Wasatch Commons offers tours every fourth Wednesay at 5 pm and on second Saturdays at 1 pm
801.908.0388. www.cohousing.org. content.csbs.utah.edu/~ehrbar/coho/experiment
CATALYST Magazine June 2013 issue