Clean energy firms choose summer solstice to promote solar power

A solar array under a mostly sunny sky

The summer solstice provided clean energy companies with an occasion to announce tax-equity programs for solar power and highlight public demand for renewable energy. Flickr photo.

Summer solstice 2010 is a turning point in the seasons and could be seen as one for solar energy as well. The summer solstice June 21, when the sun shines longer than any other day of the year, is the day a California utility holding company picked to announce a $100 million fund to finance residential solar power systems. Clean energy companies are also using the summer solstice to draw attention to public opinion about solar power as it relates to energy legislation currently being debated in Congress.

Summer solstice solar energy financing

The summer solstice announcement by PG&E Corporation of a $100 million tax-equity fund to finance residential solar power installations is the largest solar leasing pool to date, according to the company. The New York Times reports that the fund marks a growing interest by utilities in clean energy financing. The summer solstice announcement follows PG&E’s creation of a $60 million tax-equity vehicle in January for SolarCity, a Silicon Valley company that also leases solar energy systems to homeowners. And in May, President Obama chose to deliver an address promoting the climate and energy bill at Solyndra, a clean energy company in northern California.

Free solar panels for your home

The $100 million fund announced on the summer solstice is expected to fund solar energy systems for 3,500 homes in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The program essentially provides free solar panels for your home. Instead of paying for the solar energy system, which can cost more than $30,000, homeowners sign a power purchase agreement with SunRun that fixes the cost of their monthly electricity payments for as many as 18 years. In exchange, SunRun installs, owns and maintains the solar energy systems.

Solar energy facts

Abundant free energy from the sun has been talked about for decades, since solar cells started powering satellites in the late 1950s. In a feature about solar energy facts, How Stuff Works reports that on a bright, sunny day, the sun’s rays give off approximately 1,000 watts of energy per square meter of the planet’s surface. If that energy were collected it would easily power everyone’s homes and offices for free.

Solar energy attitudes

The clean energy company Applied Materials chose the summer solstice to publish results of a survey finding that two-thirds of Americans believe solar power should play a greater role in meeting the country’s energy needs. MarketWatch reports that according to the survey, three-quarters of Americans feel that increasing renewable energy and decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil are the country’s top energy priorities. The representative sample of 1,000 American adults also found that 67 percent of Americans would be willing to pay more for their monthly utility bill if their utility company increased its use of renewable energy, and 49 percent would be willing to pay $5 or more each month for an increased amount of renewable energy.

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