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Getting Money Back From Solar Power

By Sid of Stone Marmot

Jan. 2, 2010

The most common question I get is some form of: "When will you get your money back from your solar power installation? How long will it take to break even on your initial investment?"

My question is: Why are you adding this extra condition to anything that helps the environment? You don't do this for most of other stuff you do.

For example, when do you get your money back from homeowner's insurance? Hopefully never! But few homeowners in the US would even consider not having homeowner's insurance. They get it to protect themselves in case something really bad happens. I view solar power the same way, to protect us from something really bad happening and to try to protect me in case something bad does happen.

When do you get your money back from trash collection service? You could (if local authorities permit) just cancel your trash service and let your trash pile up in your back yard. Or you could just dump it along the side of some less traveled road like apparently some people do. But most of us are willing to pay for trash service because the alternatives 1) are an eyesore, 2) can contaminate the environment, particularly the groundwater, 3) are a safety hazard, and 4) provide a breeding area for vermin which can then cause destruction and spread disease.

A lot of these same problems result from energy production by fossil fuels. Coal mines and oil wells are not pretty, contaminate the environment, and are local safety hazards. The emissions from fossil fuel plants are contributing to global warming and contaminating the environment. Solar power acts kind like trash collection in that it helps minimize these problems.

I'm writing this around Christmas time. Many people spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on Christmas decorations and the energy to operate them. When will they get their money back from these expenditures on decorations? Most will reply that is not the point; they do it because they enjoy it. They also do it, though few will admit it, to attract attention to themselves. Well, I use solar power because I enjoy breathing, eating fish that isn't contaminated with mercury, and prefer to live in a house that isn't flooded by rising oceans.

When will you get your money back from swimming pools, hot tubs, iPods, big screen TVs, designer clothing and handbags, a turf grass lawn, a vacation to Europe, video games, movie theater and professional sports and concert tickets, eating in a restaurant, etc? Most of what we spend money on will never provide us any financial return. But we expect a financial return on something that will help continue the existence of the human species, as well as many of the other species on this planet.

The truth is that solar power is more like food. We will never get the money back we spend on food. In fact, spending money on food costs us more money in the long run, as we will hopefully end up living longer than if we don't buy food, increasing our total living expenses. Shifting to renewable energy sources will hopefully allow our species and some of the other species to last a little bit longer on this planet.

If saving money is really so incredibly important, the best way to save money would be to take a loaded large caliber gun, put it to the side of your head, and pull the trigger. That simple act would significantly reduce your future expenses.

That last paragraph sounds incredibly brutal, and most would not even think of such a thing. But this is exactly what we are doing with our present energy practices: Committing slow motion suicide. But because it is so slow in happening, we rationalize it away. And the most common rationalization, particularly among older people, though almost no one will admit it, is that it is not going to happen in their lifetime so why worry about it. Most older people feel it is not their problem and that they should just enjoy themselves and let the future generations worry about it.

The big problem is that those future generations who are going to be significantly affected by this are living right now. These problems will be on us sooner than most think. If I were a young person living right now, I would be very, very angry.

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