Facebook Twitter

Opinion: To save our state, we must go solar

We all know Utah’s air pollution is a problem — but there are solutions at our fingertips with the power of the sun

SHARE Opinion: To save our state, we must go solar
Two men install solar panels on the roof of a home.

Solar panels are installed on a house in Holladay. Solar energy could make a difference in Utah’s climate crisis if more Utahns make the switch to solar energy.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The federal government is offering to help pay for your solar energy this year.

Finance is not my strong suit. I don’t claim to be an expert about solar energy either.

But as a physician who understands the horrific effects of pollution on the human body, and as a concerned father who is seriously considering leaving my childhood home for the sake of my children, I decided to look into the topic a bit.

It turns out that not only might solar energy help save our valley, it would likely save a lot of us a bunch of money too. 

It’s no question that the Wasatch Front, and Utah as a whole, faces a serious crisis, one that threatens the very existence of its inhabitants. Our pollution crisis is fully out of control, and we must do whatever we can to mitigate rising pollution levels and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. Utilization of solar power certainly seems like a good starting place, but how does it affect the pocketbooks of those who pursue it?

I’ve asked experts in the field to explain solar energy costs to me as if I were a fourth grader, because that’s roughly the extent of my financial knowledge. Right now, if you are a customer of Rocky Mountain Power, you pay a bill each month to stakeholders like Warren Buffett. The majority (60%) of your energy comes from coal plants in Carbon and Emery counties in Utah. Your money disappears never to return. No investment, no return; it’s like renting your fossil fuel energy. And you can absolutely anticipate those energy costs are going to go up.

If you go solar, you essentially take out a loan to buy some expensive panels, which generate energy for next to nothing. You lock into a fixed rate and pay the solar company for their panels similar to a mortgage. Your monthly average may well be less than it is right now. After a fixed amount of years you own the panels, and from then on your energy bill is next to nothing.

If you do it this year, the government will pay 26% of your total installation bill. Next year that goes down to 22%, and in 2024 it goes away entirely. All the while, you save our local and state environment and help preserve some semblance of a livable future for our children and grandchildren in Utah. 

Depending on sun exposure, energy usage and other variables, this might not make financial sense for everyone, but for many folks you will save money and help preserve our home for future generations.

From a public health perspective, we’d all be very wise to utilize solar power in our private residences as well as our public buildings. Big industry should take a note as well. Our state government should embrace solar energy and make it as feasible as possible to any and all. 

I have no affiliation with any solar power company, no stocks or holding in any solar power company (although I’m thinking I should), but I do have a vested interest in the future of this state. 

E. Thomas Nelson is an emergency medicine physician in Salt Lake City and is a board member of Utah Physicians for a Heathy Environment.