When One Green Beats Out the Other

20090122-bergen-street-solar-array.jpgWhen the question of converting a home or business to solar power arises, often another "green" question comes into play. What about the money? Solar Power is a tricky business. It costs a good deal up front, but it does offer the chance of monetary savings, and even gain, in the future. Chance, however, is the key word in that sentence for most people in this economy. A recent New York Times article covers the problems with which co-op boards are grappling when it comes to this form of alternative energy.

Ed Lloyd, the president of the board of a Washington Heights co-op, summed up the issue of solar power in one tidy quote: “I don’t want us to be all caught up in green and end up in the red,” he said. “I’m as environmentally conscious as the next person but we can’t base it all on that.” While I understand Lloyd's concerns, I think that our country, and even the world, has come to the point where we can't risk not investing in alternative energy. It has to be less about money, and more about responsibility. For too long humans have been operating in the paradigm where money rules, and the repercussions are shuffled to the perimeters of our consciences. Not to be extreme, but I don't think a few extra dollars will make a difference when global warming eliminates most of Manhattan as we know it.

Luckily, many federal and state tax breaks have been designed to encourage co-ops and individual homeowners to invest in solar panels and green roof technologies. In the case of Lloyd's co-op, River Arts, the tax breaks mean that the co-op would make up its initial investment in 1 year, rather than 10. With numbers like that, it's hard to argue that the financial burden of green technologies is too big to undertake. Especially when numbers show that in New York City, "residential buildings produce more carbon dioxide emissions — 30 percent — than any other large sources of emissions, such as commercial buildings or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of those emissions come from the use of electricity and natural gas."

So, when looking for a way to donate to environmental efforts, perhaps we should all start by thinking on a local scale. What can I do to make my home run more efficiently using alternative energy methods? Also, support of the federal tax breaks and non-profits who help people utilize them, are extremely effective efforts in which we can all participate. I will end with that old, yet extremely inspired, adage: If not us, who? If not now, when?

Dana Variano

Posted at 1:00 AM, Mar 25, 2009 in Permalink | Comment

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