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Los Angeles Woman Takes on Pollution and Smog Through Solar Power

Monday, October 10th 2011 2:55 PM
By GetSolar Staff.
Los Angeles Woman Takes on Pollution and Smog Through Solar Power California is well known for its warm, sunny days and beautiful beaches. Despite that, Californians cannot always brag of clear, blue skies and fresh air. KPCC Southern California Public Radio reported in September on a report from local environmental group Environment California found that some areas of the state saw ground-level ozone in excess of federal standards roughly one-third of the time.

For Sue Xue this was more than just a passing issue. Living in Cerritos, California, half an hour southeast of Los Angeles, Sue dealt with smog as a regular fact of life. Though only the third worst region of the state, Los Angeles saw high smog for 69 days throughout 2010, nearly one-fifth of the year.

Much of pollution in California that causes smog comes from the astounding number of cars in the region, but much of it also comes from fossil fuel-burning power plants. Despite drawing 13.6 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric plants in 2009, 12.5 percent from other renewables and 15.5 percent from nuclear plants, a majority of 55.4 percent was produced using natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While cleaner than coal and petroleum, the state's utilities still produced the seventh most nitrogen oxide, the primary cause of smog, in 2009 with 83,000 metric tons.

Those only represent a fraction of the potential environmental impacts of the electricity industry. With the growth in the solar industry recent years, it was this worry that ultimately spurred her to consider the possibility of a rooftop solar installation.

"To protect the environment is always what we try to do," Sue told California solar installer MSL Solar. "The folks at MSL Solar opened my eyes to the great savings and environmental benefits of generating my own electricity."

The surge in residential solar installations has played a substantial role in making renewable electricity such a large portion of the state's electricity generation. The Solar Energy Industries Association's annual report found that California added 258.9 megawatts of photovoltaic solar installations in 2010, with nearly half of that coming from the residential market.

USA Today reports that another study from the SEIA attributed fully one-third of this growth to the development of the new solar leasing financing option, but the states solar incentives have also served to push the industry along. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency notes that California offers dozens of state and local solar incentives, such as tax exemptions and rebates, in addition to the generous federal tax rebate that has proven so successful. Sue had access to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Solar Incentive Program, which offered rebates up to $2.20 per watt of installed capacity.

With help from MSL Solar, Sue ultimately decided on a rooftop solar installation with more than a dozen solar panels boasting a maximum capacity of 3.6 kilowatts and an annual output of more than 7,200 kilowatt-hours. After the system was turned on, Sue's electricity bills quickly dropped from around $150 per month to only $50 per month, a reduction of 66 percent. The system is guaranteed to perform at a certain level for 25 years, with expected savings over that time to amount to around $90,500, easily more than the cost of the system. On top of the savings, Sue's installation should serve to offset 124 tons of carbon dioxide, roughly the equivalent of planting 70,000 trees. Her solar systems will similarly serve to reduce nitrogen oxide and help ease the smog issue in the area.

"I just love to watch the meter go backwards; at the same time I know I am helping our planet and my children’s future."

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