COASTAL LIVING: Investing in solar energy a bright idea for future

NANAIMO – Electricity systems based on sun’s power offer better return on investment.

There is little doubt that fossil energy has benefited our societies, providing us with plastics, fuels, lubrication and even fertilizers.

Essential fossil fuels are the stored ancient energy of the sun attached to carbon molecules. While concentrated and portable there is a ‘dark’ side to such fuels, and not only because oil and coal are black.

As they release the stored solar energy they also release those very dirty carbon molecules, injuring and even killing thousands of Canadians each year – not to mention damaging our planet.

Remarkably modern solar, wind and wave power can supply at least 90 per cent of our energy needs, virtually carbon-free, and at prices rivalling that of government-subsidized fossil fuels.

The talk of a “solar highway” is the latest indication of the appeal of solar technology.

Paving roads or cycle paths with hardened solar panels instead of fossil fuels that provides power to melt road ice, provide street lighting, energy to the vehicles and more has captured the imagination of many.

Homeowners and businesses are beginning to install solar systems, delightfully forcing their power meters to run backward. These systems typically deliver a better return on investment than the stock market average – and certainly at a higher rate than GICs.

A Vancouver Island company is now manufacturing solar heat pumps. Combining solar panels with conventional heat pumps these units can heat our buildings and water about five to eight times more efficiently than do typical sources of heat.

The return on investment ranges from four per cent to 15 per cent per year, tax-free. Better yet, all solar systems in B.C. are PST free, a seven-per cent incentive.

Another practical example: a local gardening and landscaping business uses only solar-powered equipment.

Not only is the gear much quieter to operate (welcomed news for shift workers and parents of small children) but is also far less expensive to operate.

The company is rapidly expanding. One day even their truck will be all-electric.

Renewable energy is taking off around the world, despite us taxpayers subsidising the fossil fuel industry several billion dollars each year in direct subsidies.

Clean energy installations are outstripping fossil fuel projects in most parts of the world.

Do you know what country boasts 80 per cent of the world’s solar hot water installations? Surprise: it’s China.

Renewable energy systems are not only affordable and clean, they create far more good-paying jobs per unit of energy output than do fossil fuels. Such jobs are typically local, avoiding turning our region into a third-world job-exporting one. Local schools, businesses and the tax base are far easier to maintain, and the boom-bust cycle of fossil fuels is avoided.

Is there enough solar energy available? During the time it takes you to read this column, the sun will have delivered as much energy to the Earth as we humans consume in a whole year.

While the Canadian and B.C. governments are heavily investing our money and futures in old, dirty technologies smart people are investing in clean, health-enhancing, job creating renewable energy, leaving a better planet to our children.

Such a bright idea.