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by Rental Owner, Southern California

As a rental property owner, it behooves me to find solutions to reduce my utility costs and hence the long-term sustainability of my properties. To this end, I have looked into options both specific to my “micro” needs, and with thought to the global needs of our fine State of California.

There are two options available for personal properties as far as I know ….solar and wind. Based on the location of my properties, the former was the only viable option for me, as is the case with most Californians …. unless of course, one lives in the wind tunnel of the Banning Pass.

The concerns which prevented me from installing solar panels on the properties were the following: initial cost versus the time to break even with the investment, change to the physical look of the property, concerns about maintenance of the panels, and an overriding concern about future technological advances leaving my investment in the “so-called “ dust.

There are a number of competing companies vying to sell property owners like myself their “proprietary panels" with guarantees of lifespans up to 20 years. Who knows if that is true? Most of these companies and products are newer than 10 years of age, so I wouldn’t bank on their untested longevity claims. Also, as we all know, technology advances rapidly. What the world will look like in 20 years is anyone’s guess.

We all know the technology present in consumer items such as computers, cell phones and even automobiles is unrecognizable after five years. Would anyone consider driving a car that is 20 years old? Or how about a cell phone that is older than three years? The technology for solar energy production will also change over 20 years to the extent I know I will want newer, more efficient and streamlined panels in much shorter a period of time than what the solar companies project in their sales pitch. The cost of dismantling and reinstalling newer panels will be exorbitant, without a doubt.

I guess it depends the main reason for choosing solar. If one is a true believer in climate change and desires to have an immediate impact — as little as that is — you go solar. However if one is looking for long-term cost reduction in energy production for one's home or properties, it seems to make less sense.

Another overriding concern with solar installations, in particular with sustainability and reduced environmental impact, is the effect of solar panel disposal in the future. At some point they’ll need to be dismantled and disposed of in some manner that does not disrupt the environment. Landfills filled with “aged-out” solar panels maybe more environmentally damaging than the effects of other energy sources to be discussed below. I think there is no good answer for this conundrum.

I also had concerns about the maintenance of the panels. How often they need to be washed to maintain maximum efficiency, how to safely clean their absorptive surfaces and the cost involved in repair if damaged due to unforeseen circumstances.

Finally, until solar panels have a more pleasing or less disruptive look on a roof, my wife and I will choose to maintain the design elements of our roof rather than allow it to look like a solar farm installation.

Instead of California government and private solar installation companies pushing the solar agenda, I would like to see an immediate, effort to develop cheap, reliable, abundant energy based on nuclear fission now, and fusion in the future as soon as it’s viable. To me it is unconscionable that our government has given up on nuclear energy for our societal needs, when it is cheap, safe and easy produced with limited environmental impact. We are 40 years post-Three Mile Island, our world and nuclear fission safety has progressed substantially. Time to make the change to nuclear power again.