Solar is in the lead; youth find their voice

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl 
Contributors 

In 2016, solar nearly doubled in the U.S. with 14.6 Gigawatts (GW) of work of power generators being installed. A little over one-third of it was installed in California with the nation’s largest state racking up over 5 GW. Solar was the leading source of new electrical generating capacity in the nation.

Of special interest is Lancaster, California, which requires new homes built in the community to have solar panels on their roofs. Their most recent ordinance requires that new rooftop arrays meet all the energy needs of the home. Additional provisions are being considered for homes with insufficient roof space to meet the expectations of the new ordinance. This is another step in their effort to become a zero net energy city.

By placing the solar system on a new home’s roof, its cost is included in the home mortgage. It relieves the homeowner of the need to negotiate to secure a system and find financing for it.

Energy storage is seen as the solution to the problem of intermittency in production from solar systems to maintain grid stability. Several storage options including deep cycle batteries, flow batteries, compressed air and thermal storage as well as the storage capacity in electric vehicles are approaching cost effectiveness.

Reporting on a survey of over 200 cities in the Great Plains region, Rebecca J. Romsdale indicates that even communities in red states are taking actions consistent with the overall goal of addressing climate change but frame the actions in terms of historic concerns over energy, clean air and water and the economic benefits coming from such actions. For Romsdale and local officials such a pragmatic approach seems like a logical strategy.

Some Illinois solar installers we know find success in selling solar energy on its economic and energy security benefits, so have avoided references to climate.

A more sweeping approach to addressing climate change is the legal suit described by Jeremy Brecher as the trial of the century. It is a suit brought by 21 plaintiffs aged 9-20 with President Donald Trump as the lead defendant. The suit is supported by the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust. It challenges (federal government) decisions over a range of topics throughout decades that have “substantially caused the planet to warm and the oceans to rise.”

A decision in the federal district court in Oregon by Judge Ann Aiken is seen as setting the stage for a trial on our right to a stable climate. The judge’s decision as reported by Brecher acknowledged that the “climate kids” have a claim for protection of their life and liberty under the Fifth Amendment. The Federal Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin has ordered the parties to move forward on preparations for the trial.

The case, known as Julian v. United States, is seen by Brecher as likely to take a long time to resolve but could serve as stimulus for an educational campaign addressing government actions threatening climate destruction.

Environmental and renewable energy interests have often based their call for addressing climate change around concern for our children’s future. This suit provides a direct voice for today’s youth.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are the President and Vice President of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association.

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