Arizona congresswoman installs solar panels on roof of her Tucson home to reduce electricity bill and increase energy independence

TUCSON, AZ – January 8, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, one of the leading proponents of solar power in Congress, this week had nine solar panels installed on the roof of her Tucson home – a project that is expected to dramatically cut her electric bill.

“Harnessing solar energy and putting it to work is a no-brainer for sunny Arizona,” said Giffords. “The sun is our state’s most abundant energy resource. I am proud that I am able to take this personal step to increase my energy independence.”

The solar panels are expected to cut Giffords’ monthly electric bill in half, according to George Villec, owner of GEOInnovation, the Tucson company that installed the panels.

During the week, when the congresswoman is in Washington, the excess power produced by the panels will flow back into the grid, allowing Giffords to accumulate a credit on her monthly bill.

The solar panels were manufactured in Tucson by SOLON Corp. in a plant near Tucson International Airport.

Villec said there is a global oversupply of panels because the slow economy reduced demand last year. That means lower prices on panels now, but the oversupply is expected to be exhausted by mid-2010.

The work at Giffords’ home was GEOInnovation’s first project of 2010, Villec said.

The system on Giffords’ home cost about $12,500 for equipment and installation. But after a rebate available to all customers of Tucson Electric Power Company, Giffords paid only $6,334 for the system.

Giffords also will receive $2,900 in state and federal tax rebates when she files her 2010 income taxes next year, bringing the net cost of the system down to about $3,400.

If electricity costs continue to increase by an average of 4 percent annually, Giffords’ solar system will pay for itself in about 7.4 years, said Villec.

And by offsetting the use of coal-fired electricity, Giffords’ panels will prevent the emission of about two tons of carbon dioxide annually – equal to the amount produced by driving an average-sized car about 4,000 miles.

“I am passionate about getting our nation off foreign energy sources,” Giffords said. “We know that sending more than $400 billion a year overseas to buy foreign energy weakens our economy, strengthens our enemies and undermines our national security.”

“As a third-generation Southern Arizonan, I know that we have a tremendous opportunity to use solar,” Giffords added. “This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to pass up.”

Installation of the panels comes the same week as the latest Solar Power 101, the popular community education forum on solar energy organized by Giffords and the Pima County Library.

Since 2007, 30 Solar Power 101s have been held throughout Arizona in an effort to promote a greater understanding of the benefits of solar energy. Wednesday night’s Solar Power 101, at the Nanini Branch Library, drew a crowd of more than 100 interested citizens.

Giffords, a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, introduced the Solar Technology Roadmap Act last year. The bill would establish a public/private committee to help guide federal solar research and development funding.

Approved by the House in October in a strong bipartisan vote, the bill now awaits Senate action.

Facts on solar installation at Congresswoman Giffords’ Tucson home:

System specifics:
9 panels with 25-year warranty
Covers about 150 square feet
Produces about 2 kilowatts of electricity

Total project cost, including materials and installation: $12,544
Rebate from Tucson Electric Power Co.: $6,210
Cash outlay from Congresswoman Giffords: $6,334
Rebate on 2010 income taxes from state: $1,000
Rebate on 2010 income taxes from federal government: $1,900
Final net cost to Congresswoman Giffords: $3,434

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