Making money with solar

by Theresa Coleman and Paul Kangas

What is the fastest way to shift our economy from oil to solar?

If a city passes a local law that requires each house sold to be required to install 10 or more solar panels after the sale, this will shift 1 million homes to solar in 2015. Think about that.

Black-man-installs-solar-panels-on-own-home-300x197, Making money with solar, Local News & Views
This man decided to make installing solar panels on his roof a do-it-yourself project.

The house is for sale, so it is empty. The bank is loaning money to the buyer. If there were a law that required the government to give a $5,000 tax credit and the bank to loan an extra $10,000 to the buyer, so the owner could then buy 10 panels, at $120 each, and hire a local crew to install the panels, this would rapidly install 10 million panels and create thousands of local jobs.

It is a bad deal to lease your roof to a solar leasing company, like Solar City, because they make the money and control your roof, so you can’t sell your house.

With this new solar roof law, the homeowner now gets 100 percent of the energy and money from the use and sale of the solar generated from their roof onto the grid. If we can now raise the rate PG&E is required to pay to $0.49 kwh homes can then pay off the solar loan in eight years. Win, win, wow.

Thin-film-solar-shingles-by-US-Tile-300x246, Making money with solar, Local News & Views
Thin-film solar is flexible enough for a tile roof. – Photo: US Tile

What is the best way to generate solar? There are three main ways: The first is thin-film. Probably thin-film panels are the best way to generate solar energy since they put less weight on a roof and can fit more easily on the sunny side of a house. They can be rolled out and are easier to install in more places.

Our main goal is to build decentralized, distributive, rooftop solar, which gives more power and more money to solar home owners. Plus thin-film will be easier to mold onto cars, airplanes, boats, backpacks etc.

As you read this, a solar powered plane, Impulse II, is now circling the earth. Thin-film requires less rare earth materials and so cost less. Thin-film absorbs more energy from low light times of day and when there is shade on a panel. In five ways, thin-film is more efficient and generates more energy.

Second: Crystalline panels are heavier, rigid and more expensive. Most panels you see today are crystalline. They require more toxic rare earth materials. They do not work well where there is shade on a panel or in low light on overcast days.

Ivanpah-Solar-Electric-Generating-System-300x200, Making money with solar, Local News & Views
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

Third: Probably the least efficient way to generate solar energy is the use of mirrors and concentrating light on a tall tower of molten salt. That form would require the energy be transmitted for hundreds of miles from the desert, causing a 20 percent loss in transmission.

An example is Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar plant in the desert near Needles on the California-Nevada border, and so such energy would be far too expensive. Ivanpah is going bankrupt. Putting money into such a bankrupt technology would be a terrible waste.

The Solar Justice affinity group meets every Sunday, 3 p.m., at 2940 16th St. at Mission, San Francisco. Join us. To RSVP, call 415-368-8581. See our last article in SF Bay View, “Our future and the solar mandate of Assembly Bill 327.”

Community advocate Theresa Coleman and solar energy advocate Paul Kangas can be reached at and, respectively.