Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Has Solar Power Come of Age?

During the disco days of the 1970s, a few brave pioneers began installing solar panels on the roofs of their homes. With the enthusiasm of the newly converted, they explained to their incredulous neighbors that the flat, black objects would harness the power of the sun to provide the family with hot water.

The neighbors, no doubt, reacted much as if their acquaintance had insisted on demonstrating his newly acquired magic skills by sawing his wife in half: They nodded their heads in wary approval -- and made a silent vow to immediately install a more secure lock on the side gate.

Now, 30-odd years later, California is the third-largest market for solar power systems -- behind Germany and Japan. Eighty-five percent of all systems installed in the nation are here. Due to a growing concern for the environment and rising energy costs -- as well as the economic incentives provided by state legislation and federal tax credits -- droves of homeowners and business owners are following in the footsteps of those early pioneers.

A further sign of this booming trend is that some developers have even started incorporating solar power as a standard feature in their new subdivisions.

"Some of them have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into it," says Gary Gerber, president of Sun Light & Power in Berkeley, "while others have seen the advantages and recognized that this is actually a sales tool for them. Once that gets going, they'll all jump on board." more

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