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We owe our veterans a renewable energy way of life

By Nat Kreamer

Tracer rounds from .50 caliber machine guns lit up the sky the night I landed at Baghdad International Airport. Like hundreds of thousands of Americans over three decades, I was in the Middle East, in uniform, carrying a gun to protect our national energy interests. A little over a year later, I took off from Bagram Airfield, returned home, and co-founded SunRun to help American homeowners get their energy from clean, affordable, and domestic solar power.

There is nothing like a natural resource war to give you religion about renewable energy.

Every Memorial Day, we salute every American service member and veteran. We honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and way of life.

But our way of life cannot continue to subsidize foreign energy sources with more blood and treasure. American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines continue to make tremendous personal sacrifices to protect our national energy interests around the world.

We have spent at least $7.3 trillion to defend our energy interests in the Persian Gulf alone over the last 30 years, according to research conducted by Princeton University professor Robert J. Stern. That $7.3 trillion is a massive oil subsidy. To put this in perspective, $7.3 trillion equals 46 percent of our national debt today or approximately $23,000 per citizen. Imagine the last 30 years without two wars in the Gulf, with a better economy, and cleaner environment.

We owe our veterans and fellow citizens a way of life powered by clean, affordable, and domestic energy sources, like solar. Fortunately, we are making progress.

In the first three months of this year, 82 percent of all new power generation built in the U.S. came from renewable energy sources. Every day, thousands of Americans buy electric cars and install solar panels on their homes. In many states you can buy solar electricity for your house for less than you pay your utility today.You can run a car on that solar electricity for half the price of running one on gasoline. Those simple home economics mean we may not have to spend the next 30 years fighting debt-financed foreign energy wars.

Our military is leading from the front. For example, the military is putting solar electricity systems on the roofs of buildings at bases around the country. That solar electricity saves the military money it can invest in our national defense. Installing distributed solar electricity systems on military bases improves their defense by helping make bases self-sustaining and harder to attack. U.S. military units in the field are starting to use solar panels to generate electricity to run combat systems. Those solar panels make our fighting units more effective by reducing their reliance on vulnerable supply chains and expensive overland diesel fuel deliveries for generators. It costs the U.S. military approximately $50 per gallon for every gallon of diesel delivered to combat units in the field, according to the U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office. An average solar panel costs approximately $150, creates as much energy as approximately 250 gallons of diesel fuel, and only has to be delivered once.

Solar power is a force multiplier for us all.

As a U.S. Navy officer, Nat Kreamer served in the U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He co-founded SunRun in 2007, which is involved in the residential solar financing industry. Today, he is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Clean Power Finance, a leading provider of software and financial services to the solar industry, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

May/June 2013