For decades the story of technology has been dominated, in the popular mind and to a large extent in reality, by computing and the things you can do with it. Moore’s Law — in which the price of computing power falls roughly 50 percent every 18 months — has powered an ever-expanding range of applications, from faxes to Facebook.Read More
A nationwide poll conducted by Kelton Research showed that just shy of 9 out of 10 Americans (89 percent) think it’s important for the United States to develop and use solar energy. Breaking the results out along voting lines, 80 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Independents and 94 percent of Democrats agreed with the above. This is the fourth straight year Kelton’s survey results showed nearly 90% of Americans support developing solar energy.Results also showed that Americans support federal incentives to do so. More than eight of ten (82 percent) support federal tax credits and grants for the solar industry, just like those that continue to benefit companies in the all too well established oil & gas and coal industries. Seventy-one percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Independents and 87 percent of Democrats responding to the poll agreed.Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they would choose to financially support solar energy over other energy sources such as natural gas (21 percent), wind (12 percent), nuclear (nine percent), and coal (three percent). Solar energy is more than twice as popular as any other energy source among Independents – 43 percent vs. 20 percent for natural gas.
Moreover, support for solar energy remains strong despite all the recent media and Congressional attention devoted to the bankruptcy of Solyndra, Kelton found.
Eight out of ten (82 percent) of Americans think it’s important for the federal government to support US solar manufacturing, and a majority of Independent voters (51 percent) think it’s “extremely important.”
The American economy has evolved into one built on consumption, and Kelton found that 51 percent of Americans would be more likely to purchase a product if they knew that it was made using solar power. At 61 percent, consumers in the key 18-44 year old age group were even more likely to do so.
A Win-Win Situation
Solar leasing programs are making big strides in educating consumers and making it more affordable to buy solar power, but cost, along with consumer education, remain the biggest hurdles. Forty-eight percent of Americans cited costs as their biggest concern with purchasing a solar energy system despite the cost of solar panels dropping 30 percent since the beginning of 2010 and the introduction of solar leasing programs.
“In this tough economy, Americans want to see solutions coming from Washington,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “For members of Congress trying to find ways to create jobs, solar is a win-win.
“Thanks in part to proven policy successes like the 1603 Treasury Program, the solar industry has doubled its workforce in the last two years and now employs more than 100,000 Americans at 5,000 businesses spanning every state. And solar enjoys overwhelming support across all political affiliations – Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
“It’s clear that solar has the strong support of the American people. Now it needs the support of U.S. policymakers in extending job-creating policies like the 1603 program to make sure solar continues to work for America.”
So What’s Up in Washington, D.C.?
Kelton’s poll results, which are included in the 2011 SCHOTT Solar Barometer released yesterday, clearly indicate the breadth and strength of support for developing solar power across the US populace.
So what’s up with the elected leaders of our national government in Congress? Why is it that opposition to instituting longer lasting solar industry support and incentives, such as investment and production tax credits and the Treasury 1603 program, continues in the face of such broad public support?
The answers aren’t pretty, particularly as to its reflection on state of the American democratic republic. They’re a cause for ever more widespread cynicism, which has been defined as ‘spiritual death.’ A direct, causal link between the answers and the growing “Occupy,” or “The Other 99%” movement may also be inferred.
They’re yet another sign that our elected representatives are bought and paid for by corporate and external organizational and institutional interests.
We elect them based on their campaign promises, records and backgrounds, but it’s clear that US elected representatives, once ensconced in their offices and in Washington D.C., don’t believe it’s necessary to respond to the will of the broad public even when it is so unified. Other influences apparently prompt them to act otherwise.
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For a long time, the holy grail of solar photovoltaics (PV) has been "grid parity," the point at which it would be as cheap to generate one's own solar electricity as it is to buy electricity from the grid. And that is indeed an important market milestone, being achieved now in many places around the world. But recently it has become clear that PV is set to go beyond grid parity and become the cheapest option to generate electricity.Whenever I say this I encounter incredulity, even vehement opposition, from friends and foes of renewable energy alike. Apparently, knowledge of the rapid developments of the last few years has not been widely disseminated. But it's happening, right under our noses! It is essential to understand this so that we can leverage it to rapidly switch to a global energy system fully based on renewable energy.A hundred solar cells, good for 380 watts of solar PV power.Photo: Ariane van DijkWorking on solar PV energy at Ecofys since 1986, I have seen steady progression: efficiency goes up, cost goes down. But it was only on a 2004 visit to Q-Cells' solar cell factory in Thalheim, Germany, that it dawned on me that PV could become very cheap indeed. They gave me a stack of 100 silicon solar cells, each capable of producing 3.8 watts of power in full sunshine. I still have it in the office; it's only an inch high!Read More