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Feeling a little solar powerless

Marketplace Staff Sep 17, 2007

Feeling a little solar powerless

Marketplace Staff Sep 17, 2007


KAI RYSSDAL: Crude oil closed at better than $80 a barrel today. $80.57 to be exact. Up a buck-47, a new record. I don’t know if she saw that coming or what but commentator Sandra Tsing Loh’s had about enough of fossil fuels. As she exlains in this edition of The Loh Down, she’s trying to go solar.

SANDRA TSING LOH: My solar madness began because I live in California and I’m sick to death of Priuses, organic food and everyone wailing “You have to see “An Inconvenient Truth! You just have to!”

At which point I said, “OK, I’ll bite.” Here we are in Los Angeles, the most econazi city on earth. What with our hectoring celebrities driving their vegetable oil-fueled limos under our 365-day-a-year sun, we should be the leader in solar energy. Even our Hollywood governator has signed a million-solar-roof initiative.

I’ve got Visa in hand. Of course, I am a busy working mother. So I’m wondering, which of you Prius-driving bleeding polar-bear-heart Californians can direct me to L.A.’s one-click solar power Web shopping?

“I’ve been meaning to make a call,” says my friend Amy. “I guess I don’t really understand it. There are power credits? Who gets them?”

“It’s also pretty expensive,” warns her husband, George. “Even with rebates, our outlay would be at least $10,000. It would take us 8 to 10 years to even recoup!”

I’m amazed how quickly they’ve gone from a crunchy-granola couple weepily castigating meat eaters, to prickly and neurotic yuppie investors, running the complex calculations of outlay recouping.

So I press on. I find a company called Solar City. The nice representative and I have a fascinating conversation about kilowatt hours, south-facing roofs, satellite images of our house . . . Really? Fantastic.

Now I have all the tools to become a total solar pest. I type in the address of my smug Prius-driving friends into Google Earth and send them a cheery e-mail: “Look at all that roof you’ve got! Very sunny! You’re a perfect candidate for solar!”

Because, hey, if I get a group to buy in bulk, we’ll all get 10 percent off!

“We’re just feeling strapped,” says George. “We just spent $4,000 on this beautiful, reclaimed teak bed. And we don’t want our house to look like a factory.”

Well, excuse me for trying to bring solar power to the people.

RYSSDAL: Humorist Sandra Tsing Loh lives right here in Los Angeles.

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