Editor's Note: This is the last in a series with the American Solar Energy Society. Click here for more articles about the National Solar Tour.
As the debate on the prudence of this months Congressional bailout package continues to rage, one thing is clear: the renewable energy stimulus component of the bailout package will prove an effective weapon in Main Streets arsenal against runaway energy costs -- and for energy independence.
The case for this argument is being reinforced by unprecedented turnout for the non-profit American Solar Energy Society's (ASES) 13th Annual National Solar Tour, whereby businesses, public agencies and homeowners introduce neighbors and associates to the solar technologies they are using to 1) drastically reduce monthly energy bills, 2) improve property values and 3) enjoy rich tax credits and cash incentives as they utilize clean, renewable energy to heat, cool and power their homes and businesses.
Over 150,000 individuals 10,000 of them volunteers are participating in tours in 49 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico throughout the month of October. According to ASES National Solar Tour Manager Richard Burns, thats a 25% increase over last years event. Only North Dakota has yet to participate in a tour.
Weve reached an exciting tipping point here, not only in terms of the numbers of folks participating in the tour, but in the levels of enthusiasm people are demonstrating for solar energy solutions, noted solar evangelist Burns. The number of tours is up, the number of impassioned volunteers is rising, and those taking the tours this year seem more qualified in terms of where they are in the solar sales cycle.
Whether the increased interest in solar is despite the economy or because of it, there appears to be a shift in how people are viewing solar energy. Homes and businesses are calculating the savings, assessing the predictability in utility costs, evaluating the available incentives (in terms of tax credits and cash rebates) and acknowledging the environmental and national security benefits of becoming more energy independent by exploiting the clean, renewable energy solar provides.
People have made a concerted effort to educate themselves about the benefits of going solar, and their enthusiasm is inspirational and viral, he said. Nearly one-third of those taking the tour end up going solar and becoming a part of the tour schedule in their communities the subsequent year.
The Main Street component of this economic package stimulates renewable energy markets by an estimated $230 billion and creates or retains nearly 440,000 green jobs by providing businesses and citizens across America with rich new incentives to go solar.
Among the bills provisions are:
Consider that with the U.S. Department of Energys recent warning that energy costs are anticipated to rise another 5% this winter -- and another 10% in 2009 -- and the need for Main Street relief is indisputable.
Runaway energy costs, falling home prices, unprecedented job losses, tanking stock values and this nation's economic stability are personally affecting Americans of all walks of life, said Lurie. "The National Solar Tour demonstrates how Americans are bringing stability, predictability to these volatile market factors."
According to Burns, the National Solar Tour highlights many who are beating the street (Wall Street, that is) with the returns theyre realizing on their solar investments. And with that economic relief comes a liberating sense of energy independence.
Tens of thousands of interested parties in hundreds of communities across the U.S. have already participated in tours this month; tours remain on deck in Arizona, California, Kansas and Missouri.
The ASES National Solar Tour is the largest grassroots solar event in the U.S. To learn how to get involved, host a tour or become a sponsor for next years event, visit www.nationalsolartour.org.
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