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For years, solar power has been regarded as the power of the future; something people would only do when prices came down. Now that the California Public Utility Commission has approved $3.2 billion in solar power subsidies as part of the California Solar Initiative, consumer demand for solar power is now at its peak and fully in the mainstream.

Since the initiative was passed, Gaiam Real Goods, Hopland, Calif., has already seen a sharp increase in queries from California residents and businesses who are interested in going solar. Gaiam has solarized more homes throughout the U.S. than any other company; 60,000 to date. "We're proud to be the number one provider of solar power in America," said John Schaeffer, president of Gaiam Real Goods. "We were the first company to sell a solar panel in the U.S. in 1978. Now, nearly three decades later, solar energy is one of the best investments people can make anywhere, with as much as a 15% annual return on investment. Try to get that kind of return in the stock market."

By investing in a solar system to power homes or business, people can eliminate their electric power bills altogether or reduce them by 50% - 80% depending upon system size. This also reduces our country's dependence on foreign oil, while using power that is much cleaner and way better for the environment than coal, gas and other fuels. Over 30 years of using solar power in the average home significantly helps the environment, including saving 200 barrels of oil, reducing smog emissions by 400 lbs. and reducing greenhouse gas by 172,400 lbs.

Another advantage of solar power for Californians is that State law prohibits county property taxes from increasing on properties that are powered by solar systems, meaning the system pays for itself the day it is installed due to the property appreciation from the solar system. To make going solar simpler still, Gaiam Real Goods deducts the amount of the rebate customers will receive from the state from their initial bill, so they don't have to wait two to three months for it. Installing solar systems is not a long, drawn out process, as some may believe. It generally takes only one to three days to install a complete system in a home.

Schaeffer's commitment to helping people go solar is evident at the Solar Living Institute, a non-profit "living example" of sustainability located in Hopland, California, where over 2,500 people are trained each year on installing and using solar power. Everything at the institute is run by the sun, according to Schaeffer, whose beautiful off-grid eco-home "SunHawk" is also an example of total sustainability.

"California will be a leader in the next great high-tech growth industry -- solar energy," the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association stated last month after this announcement. "This long-term, visionary policy will save ratepayers money, create high-paying jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy," he said. Over the last few years, approximately ten million solar panels have been sold annually throughout the world, with an average annual growth rate of 40 per cent. With the financial benefits provided by the new initiative, Californians could increase the spread of solar energy even more rapidly.

For information about Gaiam Real Goods California Solar services, visit or call 888/507-2561.
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Publication:Industrial Environment
Date:May 1, 2006

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