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Burning for solar power

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Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG) President Ira Zalcman’s ambitious plan to transform the Manhattan Beach Bathhouse into a 21st century solar electric station capable of powering neighborhood homes has yet to burn out.

According to Zalcman, such a new power station could provide Manhattan Beach homes with 25 percent of their electricity. 

At the last meeting of the MBCG, Rob Ashmore, president of AeonSolar talked with local residents about the sky-high possibilities for homeowners. AeonSolar was the official solar systems provider for the 2008 Democratic National Convention helping to install an 18.2 kilowatt solar power system on the grounds of the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

New York City Councilmember Mike Nelson also announced that he plans to help fund the Manhattan Beach Bathhouse transformation.

But as attractive as the thought of getting off foreign oil and plugging into the sun might be, serious questions about the proposal remain.

“I think it’s a waste of money,” longtime Manhattan Beach resident and activist Ed Eisenberg said. “It would be a disturbing element to the people who sit around the building. We can’t even get our ball fields replaced. I think it’s stupid.”

Edmond Dweck, spokesperson for the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association (MBNA) thinks the idea of using alternative energy is “splendid.”

“Our dependency on oil must be reduced, as a nation we must consider natural sources such as gas, wind and solar energy alternativ­es,” he said.

Nevertheless, Dweck says there are significant issues surrounding the idea of transforming the defunct Manhattan Beach Bathhouse into a solar power station.

“Is the Manhattan Beach Bathhouse large enough of a site to produce the type of energy needed to have this project be efficient, or will they have to encroach and use other property to complete this task?” Dweck said.

In addition, Dweck says he also has concerns about what impact a new power station on Oriental Boulevard might have on the neighborhood’s overall quality of life and the steps that would be needed to make the area secure. 

“The current site being proposed has concerns for the community and users of the Manhattan Beach Park and Beach,” Dweck said. “I have not seen any outlines of the proposal or the site. The MBNA would definitively welcome an opportunity to review the project with Mr. Zalcman and the MBCG.”

The grow of commercial and residential solar energy systems saw a marked increase after a federal tax incentive program went into effect in 2006. Renewal of the program is now being debated.

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