SPG Solar CEO vs Bill O’Reilly on Solar

Bill O, the Art of Journalism and Me.
By Tom Rooney, CEO of SPG Solar

Journalism, says the wag, is the art of speaking with absolute authority about something you know nothing about.

Earlier this week, America’s most dominant cable TV news host, Bill O’Reilly, of course, took that definition to a new level when he went on a jag about solar power.

Solar power is just too expensive and too complicated for Bill O.

“I’d like to put solar panels on my house,” said Bill O . “And heat my house through the sun. I would like to do that for a reasonable amount of money. I don’t want to buy the oil every month. They can’t do it for a reasonable amount of money, number one.

“And its so complicated … I can’t do it. … So don’t tell me about my grandchildren. If they can figure out the solar panels, they can have them. But its all bunk. It’s all bull at this point for a guy like me. …I want a clean planet. But I’d like the stuff to work.”

But in meeting the definition of journalism, Bill O also broke its first rule: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Bill O did not.

His curiously uninformed comments came just hours after the Irvine Unified School District selected my company, SPG Solar, to install solar panels on each of its 21 solar panels on 21 of its schools — the most comprehensive school solar project of its kind.

The district will soon be getting about 45 percent of its energy from solar, as well as a 10 percent reduction in its energy bills.

And all for no money.

People in the business know this works because the cost of buying and installing panels has gone down so much, and the incentives are so strong, that the energy savings from Irvine basically financed the deal.

That’s it, Bill O. Nothing expensive or complicated about it.

You want complicated? Go to one of our solar installations at the Far Niente winery in Napa Valley, one of the finest in the world, where we built a solar energy array on top of a pond of water. The panels actually float. The first such project ever built in the world.

Maybe it was a bit challenging to build. But that is what we do.

But as far as running it, all the winery has to do is watch the sun shine and enjoy paying less for energy.

That’s it, Bill O.

You want complicated? How about building five acres of solar panels in one of the most desolate — and beautiful places on earth: Furnace Creek Hotel and Resort in the middle of Death Valley.

Same in Livermore, California, where we installed the largest solar array ever on a movie theater. The movie patrons never even knew we were there.

Whether you are in Death Valley or Napa Valley or anywhere in between, all you have to do is pretty much the same: Just sit back and watch the sun shine.

If the sun doesn’t shine, your other power takes over and you don’t do anything. You would not even notice, Bill O.

All Bill O has to do with his solar energy system is ask his accountant how much money he would save every month.

Then sit back and smile.

Bill O is fond of telling us that bloviating is his job. So is being informed about how more and more Americans tare taking charge of their energy future with easy, and inexpensive, and simple solar energy systems.

See the O’Reilly video here, about 3:23 into this six minute clip.


Tom Rooney is the President and CEO of SPG Solar, one of the largest solar integrators in the US. You can find SPG at www.SPGSolar.com. Tom Rooney is a guest blogger on CleantechBlog.com, and the opinions stated here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the team at Cleantech Blog.

7 replies
  1. Jason Buberel
    Jason Buberel says:

    Well, it is not always a 'slam dunk'. In my case – Sunnyvale, CA – SoloarCity estimates that my monthly solar lease price would be about $200/month to cover my average of 630 kWh/month usage with their zero-cost installation. Unfortunately, my monthly PG&E bill averages about $100/month. So in this case, going solar would double my costs.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Good point Jason but, your usage is about 10% below the average Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)customer and probably never gets out of their third billing tier on your monthly bills. Also, it's not as if your bill will remain static. PG&E will be increasing rates in it's first two billing tiers – which have been frozen since 2001 – by 3% on January 1, 2010 and they've had five rate increases in the last two years. That said, at 3% annual rate increase and your usage payback on your investment would be 18 years.

  3. Jason Buberel
    Jason Buberel says:

    Anon – The various ROI calculations I've done are a bit lower then 18 years – most are in the 13-15 year range – but that is still a bit steep.The other problem, brought about by the consumer housing debt crisis is the difficulty in obtaining financing for the project. There are still substantial up-front costs for homeowners like me that are not easily overcome these days.

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