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J.R. Ewing: Solar warrior?

Sometimes, the best person to preach the wonders of solar power is a man in a ten-gallon hat.

Specifically, that would be J.R. Ewing, the nefarious Texas oil tycoon from the hit television series "Dallas," though these days, he prefers to go by Larry Hagman.

The actor, who also portrayed Major Anthony Nelson in the sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie," is a major proponent of alternative energy. Solar panels blanket his Ojai estate, where he also grows vegetables and has 200 avocado trees. His 94-kilowatt installation cost $750,000 to install but helped cut his electricity bill from $37,000 to $13 a year, he said.

“It doesn’t make any noise and does a wonderful job,” he said. “I’ve realized that if the infrastructure is so delicate, then I better look after myself.”

That’s why on Tuesday, Hagman will be at the Intersolar industry conference -- his first solar trade show -- at San Francisco’s Moscone Center pontificating about the importance of solar power. The passionate thespian is a guest of Oregon photovoltaics company SolarWorld.

He will encourage consumers to go with domestically made solar panels, “made here by Americans, for Americans.”

“It’s keeping jobs here,” he said in an earlier interview. “This can turn things around."

Not to mention, he said, that using clean power could be a powerful hedge against rising electricity rates and surging oil prices.

“Our security is going to be in producing all of our own energy,” he said.

He’s also introducing a new ad campaign with SolarWorld, in which he cheerily pushes consumers to “shine, baby, shine.”

So maybe having J.R. Ewing stump for renewable power is a bit like hiring Darth Vader as the poster boy for Amnesty International. But Hagman laughs it off: “I’m an enigma to myself,” he said.

An eco-enigma, maybe. As a board member of nonprofit Solar Electric Light Fund, Hagman has made trips to Bhutan, Brazil and Rwanda to pitch sun power. The organization received a donation of 100 kilowatts of panels from SolarWorld to send to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

“It does good, and it’s been fun to be able to help people on a daily basis,” he said. “I get a charge out of this.”

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Hagman in a photo from the ad campaign. Courtesy of SolarWorld

Comments () | Archives (7)

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$37K/year for electricity? $750K investment? Perhaps living a bit more simply is a better "solution"...

It's all well and good to try and eke a little more power out of hydro installations, but those are already running pretty close to peak efficiency. There's not much to be gained there without substantial capacity enlargement and the building of giant new dams, which for many reasons is just not realistic. Solar, on the other hand, has so much room for growth and nearly limitless potential. Storage won't be a problem until we have a whole lot more solar installations to the point where we are getting a majority of our electricity from solar. We're a long way from that, and until then we can use all the solar we can get, as by far the most electricity happens to be used when the sun is shining.

Let's face it, every roof in California and the entire Sun Belt ought to have these things. The sun beats down on our roofs pretty much every day and does little more than heat our homes up unbearably, to the point where we all flip on our AC - and burn coal and gas to generate the electricity to keep cool. Think about that. Just so deeply stupid. It's the most obvious and idiotic waste of free clean power you can imagine.

I am all for advancing solar and wind energy and bio fuels too. I am concerned with the HUGE push to use solar though. With so many people claiming that solar is THE way to go it makes me worried as to what the hidden agenda is.

First I see the shortcomings of solar. The need for storage that seems to oh so cumbersome and somewhat expensive. The tremendous expense of panels in relation to the savings involved. The fact that most of those dollars spent would be going to China and other countries instead of staying here in the US.

Why not put effort into retro-fitting some of the dams we have existing to generate electricity? Some 20% of all the dams in the US (largest producer of hydro-electricity in the world) provide 26% of all our power. The costs could easily be spread between the fed state local and some PUC agencies. It would put many US workers to work and stimulate many local economies. Please understand I do not advocate building new dams. On the contrary I would like to see quite a few removed but there are many more that should be producing electricity that currently are not. In the mean time we should continue to work on solar and wind and bio-fuel technologies.

Gee, I thought Larry Hagman was dead...well good for him for being part of the solution.

@ hb,

I don't know if you were making a simple calculation, but...

why do so many observations boil down to how long to pay off the investment? What about the lack of using dirty coal-burning producing electricity? How about contributing to an emerging industry that needs revenues to make technological strides?

When I first bought my Prius, I didn't even bother to figure out how much savings in mpg it would take to pay the extra cost.

Sometimes people do the right thing because it's the right thing.

750,000/37,000 gives a break even time period of a little over 20 years.

wow, how much does an ad such as this one cost?


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