On May 9, at a Wal-Mart in Mountain View, Cali., President Obama announced clean energy projects in both the public and private sectors. The Mountain View store was an inspired choice, as it had recently installed rooftop solar panels, replaced refrigeration units with more efficient ones, and even installed a charging station for electric cars.
Obama noted that 300 other companies — including Yahoo, Google, and Home Depot — have pledged to use more solar power. These companies were not primarily motivated by altruism of course, but by cost-effectiveness. “Wasting less energy isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for business, it’s good for the bottom line,” Obama said in his speech.
What Does It Mean?
Over the past few years, the cost of solar panels has fallen by 60%, and solar installations have increased by 500%. The President attributes much of the declining costs to the Recovery Act, which provided tax incentives for solar panel installation, and the success of the Better Buildings Initiative (BBI). BBI aims to raise the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings by 20% over the next decade. Currently, there are 190 organizations signed on to BBI. Commitments from government and businesses mean that clean energy is well on its way to going mainstream.
For individuals, too, the energy market is being pushed in a greener direction. In the coming years solar technology will become cheaper and even more efficient than it is now.
What You Can Do
If you want to change the way you get energy, begin by researching local, regional, and federal tax incentives and rebates for solar panel installation. Search out a local vendor to schedule a consultation for solar panel installation. Even if you walk away without placing an order, you’ll be walking away with information you may want to act on in the future.
In the meantime, consider simple, cost-effective lighting changes that you can make at home and at work. LED bulbs remain the indoor champion of energy efficiency and are now being used in Christmas lights, night-lights, and flashlights, while outdoor solar globes are a cheap and beautiful way to light driveways, walkways, and patios for the long summer nights soon to come.