Standing on his roof, Ed Begley, Jr. supports solar energy. Photo via: Living With Ed/Planet Green
"You could call me a strategic opportunist as much as an environmentalist," says Ed Begley, Jr. The actor and host of Living with Ed on Planet Green, harvests his trash for mulch and the sun for energy for his eco-friendly home. Now he wants Los Angeles to be the solar capital of America—or rather, the capital of "sun power re-users." Not surprisingly, he's supporting the Green Energy and Job Creation Program, Measure B, on the city's upcoming March 3rd ballot. Also known as Solar 8, the proposed ordinance authorizes the installation of solar panels by the Department of Water and Power (DWP) throughout the city, connecting them to the existing electrical grid to produce 400 megawatts of power.Besides Begley, Angelenos in favor of solarizing the infrastructure include a broad coalition of environmentalists, unions, and community organizations, such as the AFL-CIO, SEIU, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Sierra Club, Heal the Bay, NRDC, and the Coalition for Clean Air, the California League of Conservation Voters, American Lung Association, and the LA County Federation of Labor.
Voter turn-out for this local primary election may be low, since the biggest office up for grabs is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who's expected to sweep, but there's some debate over this proposition. Detractors dispute the costs, claim it only benefits the unions, and encourages monopolistic concerns. Some complain that taxpayers will have to fork over another whole $1 on electric bills.
Yet LA's DWP estimates the program would create 200-400 green jobs per MW, with panels covering 900 acres of warehouse rooftops, parking lots, and unused rights of way. With enough juice to power from 100,000 to 240,000 homes, this solar panel system is expected to save 400,000 tons of greenhouse gasses.
The Green Recovery Bill
Begley calls this a "big green stimulus," summoning California to lead the way as it's pioneered other environmental efforts:
As manufacturing jobs flee our country like the birds of Capistrano (back before climate change screwed up that metaphor) folks talk about the end of an era...but Measure B represents the beginning of a new era. A time when we shed our dependence on fossil fuels and move to renewable energy using components largely manufactured right here in America and for my purposes right here in Los Angeles where we desperately need these new jobs.
How the measure got on the ballot seems to be in question. Apparently the proposal was slipped in during the last couple months by the DWP's union management and the city council approved it. By contrast, retrofitting Miami Beach (not exactly the most environmentally-progressive municipality) and Florida with photovoltaic panels wasn't up for a vote. And the Sunshine State doesn't have a green celebrity spokeperson like Begley, saying: "I know solar power works, because it powers my home, my car, and even my stove. Now I hope it will power my city too."
More on Ed Begley, Jr.'s eco-efforts
TreeHugger Radio: A Conversation with Ed Begley Jr.
Video: Riding Around New York With Ed Begley Jr.
Most Huggable: Ed Begley's New Book, Global Warming and Wine
On Solar Power
Put Green First & Promote Solar Power with the Vote Solar Initiative
120 MW of Solar Power to be Installed by New Jersey's Largest Utility
15 Photovoltaics Solar Power Innovations You Must See
Solar Power Explosion in Spain: 3.1 Gigawatts Installed in 2008