The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Going Solar

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Mike Kappus isn't your average music-biz executive. For over 20 years he's worked with rootsy artists whose distinctive music has made a difference, including John Lee Hooker, J.J. Cale and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. So I wasn't completely surprised to learn last November that Kappus, president and owner of the Rosebud Agency and a longtime environmentalist who drives a Honda Insight, had gone solar. He'd installed 96 solar panels at his Haight-Ashbury district office in San Francisco; he's now operating an energy-efficient workplace and no longer relies on PG&E. I had started thinking about making the switch to solar myself last year, before the current California energy crisis, but one source that I thought was knowledgeable had led me to believe that it was still impractical. The constant headlines about California's energy woes got me thinking again, more seriously, about conservation. It's something that, with two oilmen in the White House, I don't want to ignore any longer. Bush and his thugs like to dismiss environmental concerns, probably because they have grown up with an anti-environmentalism mindset, but also because some of their corporate backers earn billions ravaging our environment. Their solution to energy problems isn't to develop conservation-minded alternatives, or to make conservation a national priority and a matter of personal pride. The current energy crisis is California's problem, created by Californians, Bush sneered recently, as if California was some cancerous appendage that could simply be amputated. It isn't. We're Americans, just like Mr. Bush. Our state accounts for something on the order of a fifth of the world economy, according to some statistics I've seen. If California goes down, the whole country will follow, and after that the rest of the world. This is not a trivial matter. While I don't presume to think that what I alone do each day will change the cosmos, if I'm a lot more careful about the energy I use, I can at least hold my head high. So I called Kappus up the other day to get his take on going solar. "I pursued and researched it years ago," he told me. "I'm a real environmentalist. I kept getting back that it was impracticable [in an urban area]. More practical for someone away from the grid. But when we researched it again, we got back some workable bids." Fourteen people work at the Rosebud office, where there are about 18 computers and all the other office equipment necessary to do business. Kappus said his solar project cost $93,000, but after various rebates his real cost was $58,000, which he can depreciate over the next five years. Plus he gets a 10% tax credit. For much of the year, he'll actually make a little money selling excess power to PG&E. He also believes that the resale value of his property went up over $100,000 the day after the system was implemented. "Add up the numbers yourself," he said. "It makes sense now." A typical house, of course, doesn't have the energy requirements of an office, and thus the cost of going solar should be substantially less. Once I've completed my research, I'll let you know. I wondered how the artists Kappus works with appreciate his environmental efforts. "Not everyone is an environmentalist, but those who are, are proud," he said. "Beausoleil and some of Robert Cray's bandmembers and Charlie Musselwhite think it's really cool. They appreciate the fact that 'you can do it.' " Kappus stressed the fact that bottom-line thinking wasn't his reason for going solar. "The initial reason for doing it is the environmental concerns," he said. "Our power is now coming from the sun. It's going to be there anyway. We can use it to create energy and without a fear of pollution going into the atmosphere."

Datastream: J. J. Cale Live, J. J. Cale's first new album since 1996's Guitar Man, will be released on Virgin's Back Porch label in May. The live recordings are from Cale's last tour, which also took place in '96. There's a solo performance of "After Midnight," with Cale's band backing him on "Old Man," "Money Talks," "Riverboat Song," "13 Days," "Magnolia," "Cocaine" and others. ... Recording for the upcoming Red House Painters' album, Old Ramon, began in the fall of '97 and concluded just before the summer of '98. At the time the group was signed to a subsidiary of Island Records. With the merger of Island owner Polygram and Universal, the Red House Painters were one of many that lost their contract. The album, which Sub Pop is releasing on April 17, finds the Red House Painters in top form. Among many highlights is band leader Kozelek's gentle but intense ballad, "Cruiser." And then there's "River," an 11-plus minute epic inspired by Neil Young's "Down By the River" that you'll wish never ended.

The InsiderOne Daily Report appears weekdays at 9 AM PST, except when it doesn't.

Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

copyright (c) 2000, 2001 michael goldberg | design by elephantcloud