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Rich's Reflections 9-25-10


Location: Unknown

Sunset on a Solar Field

On Sunday night I reported to Camp Perry Training Site for my annual week-long military training period. During my 28 years of service in the Ohio Military Reserve, we have gone to various training facilities around the state, but our AT (annual training) has been at Camp Perry for about the past twenty years. I really love this place; there is so much history here. This is where my father reported when he was inducted during WWII. I have seen the post wax and wane over the years in good times and in tough times, in quiet times and in times of heightened security. Much has changed and much has changed often. It is one of the many "gems' found in the 9th District.

In years past I have stayed in the four-man POW huts built here during the war to house German prisoners. They were brutally hot in the summer and indescribably cold in the winter. I've experienced both. The wind off the lake cuts right through the un-insulated walls. Fortunately, most that remain without modification are just a historical curiosity and not really used any more.

As a senior officer, I am fortunate now that the quarters I'm assigned were recently built and are sort of a "Motel 6" design. My window faces to the west and overlooks the large solar panel field my congressional opponent had installed here using taxpayer dollars (and without input from the taxpayers). As the sun sets in the west and casts its red glow across the hundreds of gleaming glass panels, I can't help but think about how these solar panels "help" the base.

It used to be that the base could pretty well estimate its monthly power costs -- summer and winter -- and accurately budget accordingly. Now, however, power costs vary widely based on how many days the sun shines. Additional man-hours must now be spent checking the accuracy of the billing to see if the swing factor is the sun or if there another factor causing the base's grid power consumption to swing erratically. But this is, supposedly, "green progress."

This false economy is underscored by its unreliability. Since the power cannot be stored, those "nasty, dirty, coal-fired generating plants' must be kept on line 24/7; they can't just be fired up on cloudy afternoons! So where are the savings? And how is this greener?

Closer to home, I recently had an investor in a solar company approach me about installing solar panels on the roof of one of our real estate projects. He estimated that it would cut our energy costs about $300 per month. And he said that there were all sorts of state and federal grant monies to underwrite the job… plus we'd be able to promote the "greenness" of our project! When pressed, he said that the actual panels and installation would cost about $400,000…. but Uncle Sam would cover it. It was a no-brainer for us!

Wait a minute: those "Uncle Sam dollars" are nothing more than taxpayers dollars sucked out of your pocket and my pocket. The payback on this "green project" is actually about 111 years -- without interest. Would you want your investment advisor investing your money like that? Of course, the solar panel supplier will be paid handsomely for his work and I'd save $300 a month (and be "green") for nothing. All at the taxpayer's expense. Sweet deal, eh?

No. It is a stupid, irresponsible and greedy deal that wastes taxpayers' hard earned dollars.

Does this sound like I am opposed to alternative energy? Nothing could be further from the truth. But funding false economics with taxpayer dollars -- at a time when we are just plain broke -- is simply unconscionable. The technology just isn't there yet. When there is a way to make a buck doing it, the free market will make it happen. Until that time, and as long as other forms of energy generation are more cost effective, any government-led effort to force a change to its favorite fad (or that of its major contributors) is simply irresponsible.

But the setting sun sure looks pretty reflecting off that big, expensive solar field. I guess that is a plus…

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