Friday, October 24, 2014

Can Chicago Corporations Make Solar Energy an Employee Benefit?

Solar panel installation on a California residence
(see "Home Solar Power Discounts Are Worker Perk in New Program" )
A recent report says that four major corporations are facilitating the adoption of solar panels by their employees. "The program, offered through Geostellar, an online marketer of solar systems, will be available to more than 100,000 employees and will include options for their friends and families in the United States and parts of Canada." (See "Home Solar Power Discounts Are Worker Perk in New Program" by Diane Cardwell in The New York Times, October 22, 2014) The four companies are Cisco Systems, 3M, Kimberly-Clark and National Geographic.

Nice list.

(So where are the Chicago companies?)

Herewith four suggestions for Chicago area companies that should get on the bandwagon and offer the Geostellar program -- or one like it -- to their employees.

The Gypsum Construction Handbook

I've long thought USG should make its next move in solar panels.

USG -- i.e. U.S. Gypsum -- produces sheet rock. They pretty much wrote the book on modern construction using panels of pre-fabricated board. And USG is very good at mammoth production on a global scale and at moving the product through the distribution change to the point of installation.

Substitute solar panels for wall panels and -- voila! -- a reinvigorated business for the 21st century!

(The company has already converted one of its plants in California to solar energy -- in "Plaster City," naturally.)

Next step: encourage the company's employees to get with the program.


Walgreens in Evanston - solar, solar, solar
Walgreens opened a  prototype "green" store in Evanston a year ago. (See "Walgreens Debuts Nation’s First Net Zero Energy Retail Store in Evanston, Ill.")

It's high time Walgreens made its next move.

Besides, Walgreens needs a good PR move to counter the laudable move by competitor CVS to stop selling cigarettes. (Not to mention some unpleasant PR about the company's tax domicile this past summer.)

United Airlines

United Airlines is in a tough business, climate crisis amelioration-wise. It's hard to run an airline without burning tons of fossil fuels -- and that's not going to change any time soon.

But United can help offset the harm it does burning jet fuel. It is already working on several steps. It could take a giant leap by encouraging its employees to go solar.


McDonald's restaurant in Australia goes solar
I live next door to a McDonald's store and I eat something there at least once a day. So I'm very alert to the continuous effort the corporation must make to keep its name in front of the public in a positive way, and to encourage patronage.

What better way than some sort of program that builds on the famous trade dress of McDonald's restaurants' red-and-yellow roofs?

Who knows - by the time McDonald's gets done encouraging its franchisees and employees to go solar, it may find itself in the business of promoting solar to its retail customers, too! (Solar Monopoly®, anyone?)

A challenge and an opportunity

Insolation: Whr/sq m per day
Chicago receives about 3,500 Whr/sq m per day
(sourced at coyoteblog)
Chicago is not in a great location for electricity generation from solar panels.

In fact, as the map at right shows, Chicago is just over the edge into the really disadvantageous, low-insolation portion of the continental U.S.

But look at it another way: if we can make it here, we can make it anywhere, right?

Clearly, some visionary people -- from the corporate sponsors, from a benefit facilitator such as Geostellar, and from local government -- need to come together at the table . . . .

Related posts

The U.S. could take a lesson from the "command economy" in China about government setting a bold new direction in using alternative energy.

(See #chinaEARTHusa -- Solar Panels at the Crux on the Scarry Thoughts blog)