U.S. Navy veteran Elmer Rankin, 71, has a failing heart, prostate cancer and arthritis that keeps him in a wheelchair. Last year, Rankin, who survives on his Social Security checks, could no longer afford the mounting costs to heat his home and power the oxygen tank he uses every night. He turned down the heat and got so cold that he wound up in the hospital.
Fortunately, while Rankin's health remains precarious, today he's no longer scrambling to pay for power. Thanks to rooftop solar panels - paid for with a California subsidy - Rankin's monthly energy bill has dropped from an average of $250 to less than $22. Last month he paid just $1.09. On sunny afternoons, he likes to sit and watch his electricity meter run backward.
"Solar power didn't just save me money - it saved my life," he says.
Like clouds temporarily blocking the sun, the continuing partisan debate about Solyndra - the Fremont solar power firm that went bankrupt last year despite a $528 million federal loan guarantee - has obscured the more important story taking place in the solar energy field: Clean, renewable solar power is rapidly becoming a mainstream, affordable U.S. energy option - and a boon to our overall economy.