Solar Electric Inc.
5555 Santa Fe Street, Suite D,
or contact: Utility Consumer Action Network (UCAN)
1717 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy
What's a desperate SDG&E addict to do? The three best answers, says UCAN's chief, Michael Shames, are: First, go for a fuel-cell generator, which you install outside your kitchen, chemically powered by natural gas, propane, or methanol. A company called Plug Power (www.plugpower.com) has the technology. Only problem: it's at least a year before the fridge-size generator's on the market. Second, says Shames, there are micro-turbines. Like big gas-powered generating stations, only small. Problem: not small enough for private residences. Small businesses, yes. Your place, no. "Right now, there's only one way to go," says Shames. "Solar power." Turns out every day enough sunlight falls on Earth to supply our energy needs for four or five years, at the present rate of consumption. Solar power's only problem is initial cost. Mike Collins of Solar Electric, which claims to be the largest solar electric company in the U.S., says a rule of thumb for cost is $1000 per kilowatt hour per day. Don't panic: If you use, say, 10 kilowatt hours per day (look at your SDG&E bill), you're talking maybe $10,000 to install a solar system that can handle that load. But look for rebates to reduce that. The California Energy Commission has a significant "buydown" program, for instance. Contact UCAN for a list of solar companies in the county.