What’s all the blue stuff in this picture?
The picture is of the Bavarian town of Stadtsteinach in the Frankenwald, about a four-hour train ride from the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. The town is described by Thom Hartmann in his book Rebooting the American Dream.
Here’s how Thom describes it.
But during the past decade, as the train rolls along eastward from Frankfurt, I’ve seen a dramatic change in the scenery and the landscape. First there were just a few: purplish-blue reflections, almost like deep, still water, covering large parts of the south-facing roofs as I looked north out the window of the train. Solar panels.
Then, over the next few years, the purplish-blue chunks began to spread all over, so now when I travel that route it seems like about a third—and in many towns even more—of all the roofs are covered with photovoltaic solar panels.
Given that Germany is one of the cloudiest countries in Europe, right up there with England—the sun shines for only about a third of the year—it seems crazy that it would have more solar panels per capita than any other country in the world and that it employs more than 40,000 people in the solar power industry. But the Germans made it happen.
They figured out a way to use their existing banking and power systems to begin to shift from dependence on coal and nuclear power to solar. And all it took were pretty small tweaks in the grand scheme of things. A minor recalibration in the way money moves around in the energy and banking sectors has turned the country into a solar powerhouse. Within the past decade, Germany has gone from near zero to producing 8,000 megawatts (MW) of power from solar, the equivalent capacity of eight nuclear power plants in the United States.
We can and should do the same—begin to invest in solar and other renewable forms of energy in America. For far too long, we have been hooked on oil, and we continue to pay a terrible price for it economically, politically, militarily, and environmentally. We need to wean ourselves from it both for our own future survival and prosperity and because so often other countries of the world look to us as an example of what they can or should do.
In 1999 progressives in Germany passed the 100,000 Roof Program (Stromeinspeisungsgesetz), which mandated that banks had to provide low-interest 10-year loans to homeowners sufficient for them to put solar
panels on their houses. They then passed the Renewable Energies Law (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz) and in 2004 integrated the 100,000 Roofs Program into it. The Renewable Energies Law mandated that for the next 10 years the power company had to buy back power from those homeowners at a level substantially above the going rate so the homeowners’ income from the solar panel would equal their loan payment on the panel and would also represent the actual cost to the power company to generate that amount of power had it built a new nuclear reactor.
At the end of the 10 years, the power company gets to buy solar power from its customers at its regular rate, and it now has a new source of power without having to pay to maintain (and eventually dismantle) a nuclear reactor. In fact, while the reactor would have had a 20- to 30-year lifespan, the solar panels typically have a lifespan of 50 years.
For the homeowners it was a no-brainer: they were getting low-interest loans from banks for the solar panels, and the power companies were paying for the power generated by those panels at a rate high enough to pay off the loans. It was like getting solar power panels for free.
If anything, the government underestimated how rapidly Germans would embrace the program and thus how much more power would be produced and how quickly. By 2007, Germany accounted for about half of the entire world’s solar market. Just that one year, 2007, saw 1,300 MW of solar-generating capacity brought online
across the country.
You can read the whole chapter here: https://ukiahcommunityblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/rebooting-the-american-dream-%E2%80%94-cool-our-fever/
Brattleboro has begun the march started in Germany more than 10 years ago. Let’s look at a few projects:
According to Chris, the Town plans to purchase solar power as part of a recent agreement to save money.
The future is “bright”! Can we make Brattleboro the Stadtsteinach of Vermont?