Tour touts benefits of using solar power

LAWRENCEVILLE - In the classic musical and film "Annie," the title character sang, "The sun will come out tomorrow." Today in Georgia, tomorrow is now as renewable solar energy and how it can work for everyone will be showcased statewide in conjunction with the Georgia Solar Tour.

Now in its third year, the tour offers the public a closeup look at how solar technology works and how it can save people money on their energy bills over time.

"We are very excited to be showcasing the power of solar at 36 sites around our state," said Georgia Solar Energy spokeswoman Laura Capps. "We have been working to promote the use of solar and energy efficient technologies for more than 30 years in Georgia and really feel the tipping point is upon us."

According to the nonprofit Georgia Solar Energy Association, interest in solar energy technology and energy-efficient design continues to grow as energy prices rise.

"It's a fast-growing industry and it's becoming mainstream," said James Marlow, the CEO of Atlanta-based Radiance Energies. "It's much more affordable now than it ever was before."

Marlow said the affordability factor comes as a result of government tax credits available at both the state and federal level.

In July, a clean energy tax credit became available to both consumers and businesses in the state who install clean energy property - like solar equipment - that can be used for heating water, generating electricity, or heating your home, pool or hot tub.

For residential solar installations, this amounts up to $2,500 for water heating and up to $10,500 for home heating and electricity. For businesses, the amount is up to $100,000 for water heating and up to $500,000 for solar electric equipment.

Marlow said an additional $4,000 credit is also available for these types of installations from the federal government - up to $2,000 for water heating and up to $2,000 for heating and electricity generation.

Marlow said employing solar technology to heat water can provide up to 70 percent of a home's necessary hot water and said the remaining 30 percent would come from a traditional water heater which would just kick in when needed.

He said a solar electric heating system would tie in to the normal grid and for a typical 3,000-square-foot home with a family of four, could provide up to 30 percent of its electricity needs. He said the typical system for this family of four would run about $28,000, but with the tax credits now available and the energy savings you'll get over time, the system would eventually pay for itself.

He also said the myth about solar power not working in Georgia and "the South" is just not true.

"Germany is the largest user of solar power in the world and on average they can only use the sun for two hours a day," Marlow said. "In Georgia we could use it for five."

And if that reason wasn't enough:

"There are 330 homes in Georgia that we know use solar power and 330,000 in California," he said. "And statewide the sun shines more often here than there."

For a complete listing

of Atlanta area solar

technology demon-

stration spots, visit www.gasolar.us/2008_Site_Listing.html

· What: Georgia Solar Tour

· Where: In Gwinnett County at the Thomson Residence, 250 Amberton Ct., Duluth.

· When: 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.