Letter to the Editor

The facts on solar

To the editor: The Daily News-Miner printed a letter from a Mr. Rick Whitbeck (Jan. 11), who is identified as Alaska state director of “Power the Future.” He disparages a local community effort to use solar energy to power local homes, using bulk purchasing to make renewable energy options more available and affordable (called Solarize Fairbanks). These solar efforts seem like a sane and helpful idea to me. It’s just what we should do.

Mr. Whitbeck however, claims this will somehow threaten one-third of Alaska’s jobs and about half the state’s overall economy. He is a sad shill for the fossil fuel industry and mining and further scolds that these citizens should be supporting any and all mining opportunities in Alaska. Building a solar/renewable energy economy will create new employment and ultimately employ more people per invested dollar than any fossil fuel or mining industry now does. Why wouldn’t we do that?

Whitbeck’s position is grossly misinformed and vastly exaggerates the need for copper for solar energy applications. This is not to say they won’t need metals. They certainly will. But he preposterously claims a small two-panel system would require 500 pounds of copper. How this would happen is a mystery, as photovoltaic panels (the primary application for Solarize Fairbanks) are mostly made of silicon, one of the most common materials on Earth. Five hundred pounds of copper could probably, in sheets, panel a whole roof.

As a 40-year veteran of professional analysis of solar technologies and author of “A Solar Design Manual for Alaska,” I find it hard to understand that someone would put this absurd point in the press and try to defame and discourage solar energy as something bad and a resource drain. Solar energy and electricity is a useful, needed, and good direction to proceed, especially if the community is strengthened by buying local and in bulk.

Mr. Whitbeck needs to stop condemning falsely the good, nonfossil energy alternatives and community cooperation. How can those be bad things?

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