Aloha Solar! | Urban Living

Aloha Solar!

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My wife and I just returned from a vacation in Hawaii to celebrate our anniversary and to get the hell out of Dodge and give into Spring Fever. I chatted up a shuttle driver on one leg of the trip about his living expenses. He said he rented a small two-bedroom home downtown for about $2,000 a month and paid about $200 a month for electricity.

Nearly everything in Hawaii costs more than on the mainland, except for local produce. Electricity is really pricey because most power is produced through petroleum-fired power plants, and the petroleum has to be shipped in from the mainland. The tropical climate is hot and humid, and locals often run their air conditioning 24/7. The organization Solar Hawaii estimates that the average homeowner uses 4,300 KWH (kilowatt hours) each year, whereas the average mainlander only uses 2,500 KWH.

We noticed solar power is really taking hold in the islands. We saw entire subdivisions from the sky with panels on every rooftop, as well as panels on random homes on the beaches and in the mountains. There were no visible panels on most of the older hotels along Waikiki Beach and our driver didn't know about new construction requirements or if solar had to be incorporated into new buildings and hotels.

Within two days of returning from our trip, I received three telemarketing calls from solar companies. Maybe you've had the same unwanted calls. The Utah Department of Commerce warns that a new scam involves calls from a fake government agency called the "Utah Public Utilities Commission." Callers try and get you to sign up for cheap solar panels by a "deadline" to get your credit card info as quickly as possible. State watchdogs are trying to catch the bogus buttheads, but people still seem to fall for these schemes. If you receive these calls, report them to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection (consumerprotection.utah.gov). And make sure you register your phone number(s) on the national Do Not Call Registry (donotcall.gov). It doesn't guarantee scammers won't call you, but it can help cut down on unwanted calls.

The best news we heard as we said aloha and mahalo to the islands was that a Hawaiian foodbank in Oahu just went solar and saved $41,041 in energy costs the first year—the equivalent of feeding more than 90 people for a year. Brava!

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