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Going solar a complicated process, industry experts say

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Solar technology was the subject of CleanTALK San Diego’s second panel discussion Tuesday.

Approximately 75 members of the solar industry, homeowners and others interested in new technologies were present. Founded in May of 2009, CleanTALK San Diego is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and industry about clean technology.

Panelists representing an array of interests discussed the need to adopt solar technologies and the regulatory and funding challenges people face when adopting solar technology.

“More sunshine falls on earth in one hour than our entire planet uses in one year,” said Don Christiansen, of Christiansen Consulting which contracts with Borrego Solar.

Solar technology is the only economically viable way to meet world’s energy needs with renewable energy, however politics often become a consideration, Christiansen said.

A variety of state and federal tax credits are available for installation of solar panels, some can be combined while others preclude owners from receiving other incentives; leaving the consumer to weigh their options, said Walter Wang, founder and managing director of SunflowerTax, a San Diego-based tax consulting and energy policy firm.

For example an owner of solar panels generating power more than required to meet a building’s needs, can apply for feed-in tariffs, Wang said. However, receiving feed-in tariffs prevents the owner from receiving the state tax credit, so owners must decide which will provide the best return.

San Diego-based nonprofit California Center for Sustainable Energy counsels homeowners and owners of commercial building on the interaction between the various tax credits, said Jon Fortune, manager of the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) Energy Advisory Service.

In addition to federal and state tax credits for adoption of solar technology, utilities administer incentives. San Diego Gas & Electric has financing available for sustainable design of new residences, said Sally Muir, director of SDG&E’s Sustainable Communities Program.

On the business end, a major impediment to wide scale adoption of solar technology is the lack of financing available, said Jam Attari, principal of Archstone Consulting an operations strategy and change management consulting firm. Due to the nation’s tight-lending environment and lack of understanding of solar technology, financing is available overseas. As a result, foreign nations will be the beneficiaries of the transition to solar technology in the United States.

Also participating in the panel were Rich Caputo, retired engineer with 25 years of experience at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Caltech and a current board member at the American Solar Energy Society and moderator Jon Warren Lentz, founding partner of Beyond Green IT, which represents SAIC’s energy saving efforts to business and industry.

For more information about CleanTALK San Diego, or to view upcoming events visit cleantalksd.org.

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