Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

James Brennan empowers Southern California with solar energy

Our occasional Q&A with Southern Californians doing green stuff.

With the recent meltdown of Solyndra, the California-based maker of solar panels, solar energy has taken a lashing in the press and public perception. However, the positive push to install solar energy continues. Meet James Brennan of Mar Vista, who co-founded the organization Open Neighborhoods to help bring solar power into Southern Californian homes.   

“When communities have local solar power, they are able to take climate action into their own hands,” Brennan shares. “This can effect rapid change much more quickly than relying on large electric utilities and political leaders to make the necessary changes to our energy sources.”

Recently, we spoke with Brennan about Open Neighborhoods, the importance of solar power, and why we can’t give up on the sun as consumers.

Open Neighborhoods recently set up a solar challenge for Los Angeles County. Can you explain this?

My organization, Open Neighborhoods, partners with local governments and communities to provide a platform for engaging neighborhood communities. We do this through social media and neighborhood events, offering workshops to explain how solar energy works. We let you know how you can finance a solar installation, as well as what options are available for renters, multi-family housing, and community solar gardens.

The L.A. County Solar Challenge is a community-wide effort to install one megawatt of solar power on residential, commercial and multi-family properties in Los Angeles County. We help participants reduce the cost of going solar. We do this as a Certified B Corporation, meaning we use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

The Solar Challenge also includes solar fundraising opportunities for LA County schools, religious institutions, and other non-profits. This includes up to $40,000 in donations to organizations that help their communities’ transition into clean energy.

Why is solar energy important for Los Angeles?

It’s really just practical. Solar energy is a clean and renewable resource that we receive abundantly here in Los Angeles.  With enormous worldwide growth in installations, costs have dropped dramatically such that in sunny climates local solar can be cost-competitive with fossil fuel-based electricity.

Electric utilities in Los Angeles County continue to increase electricity rates to pay for the ever-rising costs of importing fossil fuel-based electricity and generating safe nuclear power.  Los Angeles imports 39% of its power from out of state coal-burning plants.

Why should a single household switch to solar energy?

With substantial utility rate increases projected for the foreseeable future, homes that have installed solar to offset energy costs are seeing increased resale value by an average $5.50 per watt of installed solar power. 

Installing solar with up to 33% group discount through the Open Neighborhoods program, as low as $4.40 per watt, can result in immediate appreciation of properties above and beyond the value of the solar investment.  The energy cost savings realized further increase the return on the investment. You’re adding value to your home.

You can find more information about Brennan and Open Neighborhood’s Solar Challenge here.

Photo courtesy of James Brennan.