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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - November 30, 2001: Solar Energy in San Francisco - 2001-11-29

This is the VOA Special English Environment Report.

Voters in San Francisco, California have approved a plan to increase the use of renewable energy. The energy proposal won seventy-three percent of a vote held earlier this month.

The plan calls for San Francisco to spend one-hundred-million dollars to build devices that gather energy from the sun and wind. Unlike coal and oil, solar and wind energy are renewable resources that will never disappear. The measure will make San Francisco the largest producer of solar energy of any city in the United States.

The measure calls for San Francisco to place devices to gather sunlight on the rooftops of all buildings and schools owned by the city. These solar panels turn sunlight directly into electricity.

Supporters of the measure expect solar energy to supply between ten and twenty megawatts of electricity for the area within one year. One megawatt is enough to provide power for about eight-hundred American homes. The measure will also permit machines that gather wind energy to be built in the San Francisco Bay area. These wind turbines would produce about thirty megawatts of power.

The environmental group, Greenpeace, is pleased with the measure. Danny Kennedy, a Greenpeace official, says the vote is historic. He says the United States will now become a leader in solar energy. Environmental groups support solar power as a clean energy resource. Businesses in San Francisco also supported the measure.

Many experts and some lawmakers believe solar and wind energy may help the United States reduce oil imports. Yet solar and wind energy currently make up less than one-tenth of one percent of the total energy used in the United States.

The United States produces almost half of the world’s solar energy panels. However, most of these devices are exported. The United States buys only about fifteen percent of the solar panels sold on the world market.

Experts say San Francisco’s effort to increase solar energy may become important in the future. Lower prices for solar technology may lead to a greater acceptance of solar power. In California, power failures and high energy prices have caused people to support renewable energy resources. Experts say other American cities may follow San Francisco’s example.

This VOA Special English Environment Report was written by Mario Ritter.