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Saving Energy Gets Personal for Solar Entrepreneur

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Sustainable Future Founder David Bolt
at his Demonstration Solar Park

Saving energy is obviously more than a slogan or selling point for Knoxville businessman David Bolt. Sure, his family saved money when the power company had to pay them for energy, because solar panels and conservation methods created their net zero energy home.  And more and more commercial and residential clients are interested in the attractive return on investment.

But there is another reason Bolt is inspired to help everyone slash those utility bills with his small company called Sustainable Future.

“One is for the environment, that’s one of the reasons I got involved in solar,” shared Bolt.  “I lived right across from where the Kingston ash spill was.  I think it’s really a moral responsibility to take care of the environment.”  Bolt is referring to the largest fly ash spill in United States history, when in 2008 a ruptured waste pond spread a coal byproduct from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s nearby coal-fired power plant across hundreds of acres, polluting waterways.  Much of the coal burned at power plants like that comes from mountaintop removal mining.  The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and others promote solar as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels or even nuclear power, because it produces no harmful emissions or other waste products and is considered more reliable.
I questioned Bolt about the manufacturing of the solar panels themselves, built to convert the sun’s energy into electricity through photovoltaic cells.  A common criticism of solar is that conventional energy and materials are still used in the manufacturing process. Bolt responded by explaining that today’s PV cells are able to recoup in two years the amount of energy used to produce them, plus they can return their financial investment in a decade and have a 25-year manufacturer’s warranty.  He also said Sustainable Future primarily works installing solar cells made in the USA, supporting US jobs.  He alluded to the ideal that eventually all solar cells will be built using the same clean energy they produce, throughout the entire manufacturing process.  The cost of solar manufacturing is declining while the industry provides more and more US jobs.

As a parent, Bolt is interested in not just short-term gains, but in a long-term future for his growing children and other families.  “When I look at their future, look at their options, I don’t like what I’m seeing. Use of nonrenewables: they have a lot of pollution, a lot of side effects.  My lake house that I recently sold was near the Kingston ash spill and to see those signs that say ‘don’t eat the fish,’ that’s not being responsible. (it’s about)…taking responsibility for our actions.”

(This article is not intended to provide financial or technical advice of any kind, but is for informational purposes only.  Before you make any business or household decisions, please verify potential costs and savings for yourself.)

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