It must be excruciatingly frustrating to have the answers, see the solution and know that the technology works, but feel like you’re shouting into the wind. The old adage, “If a tree falls in the forest, will anybody hear?” could aptly be rephrased, “If someone shouts in the middle of a crowd, will anybody listen?”
Mike Arenson, better known in California, as Solar Mike, has diligently and consistently advocated for solar energy use for over thirty years. He and many others across the country, have proclaimed, from the highest mountain tops and the lowest valleys, that the answer to our energy shortage, energy “problems” and energy waste, is already at hand. They have been installing solar panels for businesses, homes, green houses, hot water heaters, hot tubs and swimming pools for decades.
Some people say it isn’t cost effective, that the cost, per kilowatt-hour, is cheaper with gas and nuclear energy. That use to be true, but now the rates are nearly equal. It takes an investment to get started, although many federal, state and county programs now give rebates for those wishing to install solar panels. Costs are declining and tax credits are on the rise.
I won’t talk about the politicians, agencies and businesses that seldom, if ever, mention or think of using solar power as an alternative to fossil fuels (though thought many more are now doing so), but I must say that we seem to be drowning in abundant sunshine while trying to stay afloat with sinking barrels of oil!
If you’re wondering whether I practice what I preach, we had solar panels installed 12 years ago, enough to meet all our electrical needs. We are tied in to the local power company grid and our meter often runs backwards, giving us credit during the spring and summer months for the fall and winter. Our unit also includes a battery back up system. When the power companies lines are down or there is a blackout, our lights keep burning and the refrigerator and computer keep humming along. During the sporadic blackouts in California, we stay lit, unaware that they have even occurred until hearing about it on the news or looking down the street and seeing it’s all dark. With energy prices always rising, we have already paid off our initial investment.
The panels fit nicely on the roof of our home’s design and are barely visible from the street. They can be placed in numerous locations, depending on your situation and do not hurt the ascetics of your home. Solar is especially valuable in hot, humid climates with abundant sunshine, including the southern U.S., South America, Africa and Asia.
While people in The States talked about becoming less dependent on oil, especially from other countries, and the continuing concerns about oil exploration, war and the environment; Solar Mike and his colleagues, have been providing the solution. With more patience than an old-
growth redwood, Mike has proceeded with one person and one home at a time.
Personally, I don’t see how he and those like him have kept their sanity. I would have been screaming, yelling and knocking my head against a wall long ago and said “forget about it”. I would have let somebody else make the effort and struggle to change our old ways of thinking about energy. I would have said, “Some day, someone will do something about this.” That “some day” is already here and has been for Solar Mike and a core of devoted sun worshipers who help convert the big orbs rays into energy.
I have no doubt that these pioneering solar advocates will continue plugging along with the patience of all the saints, until America wakes up and realizes these solar-shelled turtles of persistence passed the finish line far ahead of the fossil hares.