It can get pretty busy during the lunch rush at the Toucan Cafe on Stephenson Avenue in Savannah. They use gas for cooking, and of course steaming water to clean the pots and pans. It takes a lot of energy, human and otherwise, to run a place like that.
This dish machine operates at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and it runs all day. But instead of paying for natural gas to heat all that water, they get their energy from the sun as the water circulates through copper pipes behind panels on the back roof of the restaurant.
The company which installed the system, Remote Technology, says there's more demand than ever for alternative energy.
"We're already getting phone calls every day," said the company's Tony Wolfe. "There are several businesses that we're working with right now. Industrial plants, things like that, that are looking at solar as an alternative source for energy."
The biggest reason they're gaining in popularity?
"That's pretty obvious," laughed Wolfe. "Everybody's pretty much got an idea of how gas prices have gone, energy costs are going up. I think recently both your electrical and your gas utilities have announced price increases coming up. So, there's plenty of incentive for people to look at different ways to save money."
Once criticized as not cost-effective, Remote says solar systems can now pay for themselves within a year or two, depending on the size of the system.
Economics professor Richard McGrath with Armstrong Atlantic State University says high fuel prices have been key to continued development of alternative energy technology.
"In any sector, in any type of business, when the price of a resource goes up, it contributes immediately and very quickly to the development of alternatives," Dr. McGrath said. "So the rises in the price of fuel absolutely push the development of alternative fuel uses very quickly and renewable energy sources very quickly."
It's development the government's encouraging.
"The government passed a solar energy act of 2005, which allows tax credits for both business and residents that use alternative sources of energy," Wolfe said. "What that means to say a taxpayer is--a tax credit being different from a tax deduction is about three times the value of a tax deduction. So, basically, if you have tax credit of thousand dollars, it's like a tax deduction of about $3,500."
Saving money here in the home or business, and also on the tax bill.
You can find out more about the tax credits and what types of alternative energy system are eligible in a report by the Florida Solar Energy Center available online at: www.fsec.ucf.edu/EPAct-05.htm.