In California, It Pays To Go Green

The builders at a California subdivision aren't just putting up homes; they're building little power plants. Solar panels are standard on every roof, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

With their teenage daughters, David and Sandra White and are the first to move into the solar neighborhood. It's part of California's campaign to fight global warming by building 1 million solar roofs within 10 years.

The state of California "absolutely" helped them by "offering various rebates and tax credits and things of that nature," David says.

The panels add about $25,000 to the cost of a new home, but a state rebate and federal tax credits bring the price down almost a third.

The 1 million solar roofs will cut demand for conventional power, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, now a priority in California.

"We simply must do everything we can in our power to slow down global warming," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Sept. 27, 2006.

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So solar panels, which convert light to electricity, have been given a huge boost in California.

"I feel like we're the leaders of the country now. See, California can do it; how about everyone else," says roofer Fred Dever.

In his 34 years as a roofer, it's the biggest change in the business Dever has seen. "Tiles on the roof that produce energy — so I think that's pretty cool," he says.

Talk about cool solutions to global warming. There's a refrigerator that uses a quarter of the power older, smaller ones used. By requiring appliances be more efficient, California uses less electricity per person than any other state.

For 30 years, the guy behind California's conservation push has been Art Rosenfeld. At age 80, California's Energy Commissioner is pushing fluorescent light bulbs, which use at least two-thirds less energy. He says they're not expensive anymore. "Invest two bucks, save 50 — that's not bad, huh?" he says.

Only On The Web: More of John Blackstone's interview with Art Rosenfeld, California's "Godfather of Green."
Rosenfeld's long campaign to make everything from windows to furnaces energy efficient has given the state tough standards now required in every single new home in California.

So the obvious question is: By going green, do the Whites suffer? No! They have two fridges, three electric ovens and four TVs. Sandra says they "definitely" are energy hogs.

But their appliances' efficiency and the free power they now get from the sun has cut the Whites' electric bill by 50 percent.

"We had no idea that it would be that low. And for me, that makes a difference in my budget," Sandra says. "It is more spending money."

They also get something priceless: By living under one of California's million solar roofs, they're helping the earth while helping themselves.