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Solar Town Hall Meeting:

Less than a year after being launched, Solar Santa Monica, the City service that encourages citizens to go solar, reports a doubling of solar capacity in Santa Monica. Solar Santa Monica’ s Town Hall meeting at the Main Library on November 1 celebrated this achievement, gave a nod to locals who have converted to solar, and featured a rousing pro-conservation oration by Terry Tamminen, Governor Schwarzenegger’s chief environmental policy adviser.

“I feel a little bit like Freddie Mercury,” said Mayor Richard Bloom as he introduced the people being honored for their commitment to solar energy. “You are the ‘champions.’ I won’t sing it though!” On a more serious level, he added: “They say, ‘Think global and act local.’ You’re acting on a local level and every little thing you do adds up to big changes.”

Organizations who were cited as champions included The Phelps Group, winner of the Sustainable Quality Award for installing a 50 kW solar system on the roof of their building. Judy Lynes accepted the award for Phelps.

California Green Design also received an award, accepted by Sevan Varteressian, for having installed the Phelps system.

Solar City, the solar company whose marketing efforts made solar more visible and whose plan resulted in 88 kW of solar being installed throughout the City, was also honored, with Laura Berland-Shane accepting the award.

And the City of Santa Monica was the final organizational winner, for having installed the Civic Center Solar Garage, the single largest solar installation this year. Gene Higginbotham accepted, and a special award was given to Lauren Friedman who worked on the City team but is no longer with the City.

Individual solar champions, who had converted to solar electric or solar thermal systems for their homes, were Sonya and Bruce Sultan, John Francis, Joe Mann, Richard Bencivengo, Alison Kendall, Walt Zambas, Laura Berland-Shane, Chrisaline Anderson, Robert Benderson, Lee and Ann Cooper, Sharon Maravalie and Edwin Saks, and the Poveck and Harnage families.

Bloom spoke to the audience about his family’s own energy conservation and sustainability efforts. He noted that he now drives a hybrid car and that although there are four eligible drivers in his family, they own only two cars. “But there’s always more that we can do,” he added.

Keynote speaker Terry Tamminen, founder of Santa Monica Baykeeper, addressed the audience on the topic of “climate change,” a term he prefers to “global warming,” not, he said, because of trying to find a euphemism, but because climate change is affecting areas of the world in different ways.

Tamminen described a farm worker in Shasta County who died from heat stroke two years ago during a 110-degree heat wave. He then told of a woman in England whose house, built upon a cliff, is in danger of being washed away by the immense tides from storms in the North Sea. Along with the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Tamminen said, these people were victims of climate change. And climate change, he charged, is the result of the majority of Americans not having yet made the changes to their lifestyles that will result in a cleaner, less oil-dependent environment.

Noting that air conditioning is now a “given” feature in homes and cars, Tamminen said, “I truly believe solar will be to the future as air conditioning used to be.”

“What you are doing for your country,” Tamminen concluded, “is the most patriotic thing anybody could do. Fewer Americans will die in wars over oil.”

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