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Friday, August 15, 2008

Get creative with funding green efforts; think solar

From a letter to the editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by John Moses:

Milwaukee should recognize that one of its finest natural resources is local philanthropy. Joseph Zilber wants to write a $5 million check to the city of Milwaukee in each of the next 10 years. He’s asking other area benefactors to quadruple that amount.

So here's the idea: Using some of that money, create a private fund to subsidize the purchase of photovoltaic solar arrays for home electricity generation by Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin homeowners. Lure an established or start-up solar cell company to Milwaukee, with the promise of a guaranteed local market for, at the very least, a significant portion of its production capacity.

Offer the usual government incentives for the construction of a photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Milwaukee's inner city. Begin recruiting homeowners in the area. A typical set-up with 25 panels can run up to around $25,000. Create subsidies of at least 50%, depending on people's ability to pay.

We Energies has promised everyone higher utility rates. The possibility that homeowners actually would see their meters running backwards (i.e. selling power back to the grid) on a sunny summer day, with an initial investment cost that could mean that they'll recoup their money within a decade, might be enough incentive to get people on board.

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