California Paper Goes Solar: Every Edition Is 'Sun Day'

By: Joe Strupp Blame it on Al Gore! That seems to be the consensus at the Monterey County Weekly, a 40,000-circulation paper that recently installed 162 solar panels on its roof, giving it nearly 100% solar power. Owner Bradley Zeve, 47, says the move is the latest in a tradition of environmentally friendly policies dating back to the paper's 1988 launch that included early Earth Day promotion and sponsorship as well as one of the first newsroom uses of recycled paper.

But it was a screening last summer of Gore's Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, that convinced Zeve to go solar. After viewing the film with a group of environmental experts, the executive editor wrote in a lengthy Weekly story about the change, "If not now, when? And if not me, who?" Within two weeks of the screening, Zeve had sought a state rebate for such conversions, which resulted in a $79,000 government grant for the project that eventually cost about $265,000.

During the next few months, Zeve pursued other tax breaks and financial options. He eventually determined the cost during the next six years to pay off the installation and equipment would run about the same as his previous electric bill, with "free electricity" perhaps not coming for 10 years. "It is a long-term path that is great," he tells E&P.

The panels were installed in mid-April, and the rooftop power sources began feeding electricity to the building by April 23. Zeve says the new source is already providing about 95% of the building's power, and it could become the 100% power source by next year through some increased conservation. He claims the newspaper is the first business in Seaside, Calif., to be solar-powered, and says the move is "to reduce carbon emissions, to model sustainability in our community, and to demonstrate how a business can do the right thing for both its business and the environment."

Publisher Erik Cushman says the potential savings makes it a good financial move in itself, adding that, "concern for the environment has proven to be a good business decision."

Zeve adds that the change also has drawn positive reaction from staffers: "Their enthusiasm of the whole venture was a great thing."


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