After 18 years of promoting the use of solar energy in the Philadelphia area, I moved in the summer of 2002 to the Ithaca, N.Y. area, in the heart of the Finger Lakes region and yes, Ithaca is Gorges.
I began working in the solar industry in 1984 with a flat-plate collector manufacturer named Heliotherm, located just outside of Philly. In retrospect, solar was in its “hayday”. There were 40% residential tax credits for solar investment. Jimmy Carter had installed a large solar hot water system on top of the White House. It seemed like there were companies everywhere getting into solar and there were. Besides the thousands of small businesses, companies like GE, Reynolds Aluminum, Grumman and Corning Glass were manufacturing solar collectors. “Hope springs eternal” aptly described our industry.
It all came screeching to a halt on Jan 1, 1986. Upon taking office in 1980, Ronald Reagan immediately had the solar collectors removed from the White House roof and now the crushing blow, the expiration and non-renewal of the residential 40% federal tax credit. The incentive that created the sale of one million, (yes, that’s a one and six zeroes) solar hot water systems and was reducing our dependence on foreign oil, was squashed like a bug. Smell politics here ? Smell special interests ? Smell big oil ?
I survived in the solar industry by picking up the pieces of a lot of small companies. Between 1986 and 2002, with the assistance of Seth Dickstein and others, I serviced over 600 solar hot water systems. Systems that were installed in the “hayday”, a majority of which are still functioning. During that period I also installed over 300 pool heating systems and did the roof work on a handful of photovoltaic installations.
In Philadelphia, one of my proudest accomplishments was the work of the Philadelphia Solar Energy Association. Along with Lisa Rose-Bryant and others, we staged the annual Junior Solar Sprint competition, an exciting and educational miniature solar car race for junior high school students.
Now, under a new company name, SolarIsHot.com, I am changing the focus of my solar activities here in Ithaca. While still maintaining a certain amount of “hands-on” work in order to keep the wheels turning, I am also looking to expand into more educational and outreach programs, to spread the word to schools, civic groups, trade associations etc that the solar technologies are solid and reliable and that as a nation we should be moving decisively to implement these technologies.
Please join me in the solar movement.
Peace to all,