Green Bits: December 2008

By Katherine Pioli

Solar, recycling, rebates and more.
by Katherine Pioli
Heart surgery and temple ruins, anyone?

The price tag for surgical operations in the US often rises well beyond what most Americans are willing or able to pay. But a short trip to India can reduce the price for a procedure such as open-heart surgery from $80,000 to a mere $3,000.

So says CATALYST contributor and Salt Lake City resident Paul Gahlinger. His August ’07 article topic, "Medical Tourism," is now a book: "The Medical Tourism Travel Guide: Your Complete Reference to Top-Quality, Low-Cost Dental, Cosmetic, Medical Care & Surgery Overseas"(2008: Sunrise River Press).

Gahlinger is a physician and anthropologist as well as a pilot who has traveled the world. He has written numerous books, the most famous of which is "Illegal Drugs: A Complete Guide to Their History, Chemistry, Use and Abuse" (2001: Sagebrush Press; Penguin).

Dr. Gahlinger gives information on finding an agent, defining the purpose of the trip, locating comfortable hospitals with US-trained doctors, and even the occasional travel tip-for instance "the breast implants and tango package, a seven-day experience that combines private tango dance lessons with FDA-approved silicone implants."

"The Medical Tourism Travel Guide: Your Complete Reference to Top-Quality, Low-Cost Dental, Cosmetic, Medical Care & Surgery Overseas" Sunrise River Press (2008).

December deals from Sunlight Solar Systems

The purpose of Sunlight Solar Systems, a new local provider of alternative energy systems, is to help their clients make the switch to green energy more affordable. They offer free on-site evaluations for new systems and are well equipped to advise customers on the process of applying for federal grants and rebates. This December they have two special offers for those interested in installing new systems:

Until December 19th Sunlight Solar is offering $500 off the price of any installation using Enphase Micro Inverters.

Until January 5th, 2009 they will also complete and submit applications for customers claiming a local solar rebate from Rocky Mountain Power. RMP’s offer is limited to cover only the first 57 residentially produced kilowatts of power, so applicants after that quota has been filled will not receive a rebate. That is why Sunlight Solar wants to act quickly. The application is a pre-emptive request for the rebate and once accepted the applicant/customer must have their system installed within four to six weeks.

Sunlight Solar Systems, LLC, Marc Staker. Tel. 463-3639.

Star power in kilowatts

This summer Rocky Mountain Power completed the roof installation of 144 solar panels for the Clark Planetarium in downtown SLC. These panels produce an average of 25 kilowatts of solar energy, enough to provide power to an average of nine homes.

In conjunction with the new panels, this fall saw the opening of Star Power, a new permanent exhibit at the planetarium. Here visitors can see a solar panel display with information on how it works. They can also test just how much "energy" it takes to turn on a light by turning a hand-powered crank connected to a number of different light bulbs.

Education Specialist Robert Bigelow hopes the exhibit will help adults and children to think about the power of the sun. "Most people assume that our energy comes from the ground in the form of fossil fuels instead of from the sun. In actuality," he says, "even fossil fuels are a form of solar fuel since they are the remnants of plants and animals which at one time took their energy from the sun."

Check out the planetarium’s solar panels from home by going to their website. The Star Power link shows current instrument readings that register the performance of the solar panels. The display shows air temperature, solar potential and the amount of kilowatts generated in the last 24 hours.

Clark Planetarium, 110 S. 4th W., SLC. 456-7827.

Local independent grocers receive recycling honor

When you’re a company that takes progressive steps towards sustainable practices, a nice side-effect to doing the right thing socially and environmentally is the acknowledgment.

Last month Rocky Mountain Recycling and Mayor Ralph Becker acknowledged Associated Food Stores, a consortium of independent supermarket owners in the west, for their "demonstrated commitment to recycling."

AFA’s recycling practices include office recycling at corporate headquarters, recycling at warehouse locations company-wide, independent store recycling and the creation of an innovative reusable shopping bag program.

Salt Lake members of the association are Harmons, Dan’s, Emigration Market, Eighth Ave. Grocery, Reams, Rancho Market and Gonzales & Sons.

"Green Living for Dummies"

An audio book in three disks co-authored by Yvonne Jeffery, Liz Barclay and Michael Grosvenor. This book, which opens with an easy to understand and comprehensive definition of "green living", is so simple that it truly caters to the uninformed. The material mostly falls into three categories: travel, home improvement and food. Many of the suggestions for earth-friendly travel and food choices revolve around the idea of remaining local-vacationing nearby and growing your own food. The home improvement, a dry yet practical do-it-yourself section, gives excellent energy saving tips. Wrap your water heater with insulating material to reduce the amount of heat loss; plant deciduous trees on the south side of houses to shelter them from heat in the summer and expose them to light in the winter. Tips like these abound in the guide and can be helpful even to those already familiar with the general concept of green living.

Bailout bill includes something for you

Seek the silver lining on the massive cloud of President Bush’s "bailout" bill for failed US financial institutions, and a few strands of hope appear. The law actually incorporates a number of Acts which have nothing to do with the bailout. One of these, the Energy Improvement and Extension Act, addresses energy production and conservation.

Sponsored by Democratic Represen_tative Charles Rangel of New York and co-sponsored by 17 other Democratic representatives, this Act uses part of the $700 billion law to "provide incentives for energy production and conservation, to extend certain expiring provisions, [and] to provide individual income tax relief." Isn’t it nice to hear "individual income tax relief" instead of "corporate bailout"?

What this means is that the everyday taxpayer can take advantage of certain tax credits, the money for which is provided through the new law. One such benefit written under Title I, Energy Production Incentives, Section 106, "extends through 2016 the tax credit for residential energy efficient properties. Eliminates the limitation of the tax credit for solar electric property, and allows a residential energy tax credit for 30%." Technically, the federal government is offering to pay for 30% of the cost of your personal solar energy system. This credit covers multiple energy renewable technologies including solar water heat, photovoltaics and wind. For solar systems placed into service on or before December 31, 2008 the greatest available tax credit caps at $2,000. If the system is placed into service beginning in 2009 there is no limit to the tax credit, it will always be 30% of the total cost. This credit will be available, according to the law, until December 31, 2016.

In addition to the federal credit the state of Utah, as of 2007 and continuing until 2012, also offers a tax credit of up to $2,000 per residential unit. To illustrate exactly how much this might reduce the cost for renewable energy, Sunlight Solar Systems plugged some numbers into the equation. By their calculations, a combined tax incentive from the state and federal levels can reduce the cost of a 2.5 kilowatt residential solar system from $20,000 to $12,600.

Information on the federal tax credit:

Information on Utah’s tax credit:

This article was originally published on December 1, 2008.