“With Heavy Government Help, Solar Continues Expansion in the West. Gains in the industry are made at a cost, including taxpayer-funded subsidies set to end in 2016. Will they pay off to make solar a larger player in the home energy market?”
Whenever I read those blogs or listen to the talking heads make those statements about home solar my blood really starts to boil. What they neglect to say is “American taxpayers have been heavily subsidizing big oil for over 100 years” or “40% of our military budget is spent defending foreign oil fields!”.
OK you Tea Party supporters, lets shout about ending ALL government subsidies not just solar, especially big corporate bail outs! Fossil fuel wants a level playing field yet we do not talk in the media about about taxpayer funded toxic site clean ups or other public safety issues created by big corporations. If we want to cut our budget without sacrificing our defense lets pull our military out and financial support out of all foreign countries and put the money into high tech development that is done at home creating American jobs!
If the US government would do that, the true cost of a gallon of gasoline would be around $15 per gallon, we would not be sacrificing our American treasure overseas defending countries that are funding both sides of the war on terror and we would create American jobs. One more thing, by installing solar on 20% of the roof tops in this country, we would be putting money into local economies and building up our schools instead of tearing them down. Talk about stupid!
The richest 1% in this country are not satisfied with the shift in this nations wealth over the last 30 years. They always want more. Demonize the unions, pick apart the middle class, ship factories and jobs overseas because it helps line their pockets even more. There is one thing big corporations fear most. We still have the one thing they are terrified of the most, ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE. It does no good though if 40% of America is asleep on the couch on voting day. Turn off the TV and get into the game. Solar and renewable energy matters! (If you still have doubts, the Republican front runner outspent Jerry Brown by 5 to 1 last fall proving one thing. California still cares about solar and local jobs.
Instead here is what we hear: “Fueled by an aggressive federal tax credit program and a public desire to expand renewable energy development, solar energy continues to expand its presence in America. But despite its growth, relying on the sun remains a tiny fraction of U.S. energy generation.”
Last year was a banner year for home solar installations. The Solar Energy Industry Association reported that solar energy sectors created 50,000 more jobs in 2010 and the overall business grew 67 percent to $6 billion.
The growth in the U.S. market for solar installation is only part of a rapidly expanding global presence for solar energy. “In 2009, grid-tied and off-grid solar installation a $39 billion global industry, and in 2010 solar was a $71 billion global industry,” said Rick Gilliam, vice president of government affairs for solar firm SunEdison. “The industry is advancing and growing rapidly, but the traditional energy resources are pushing back against the development of new resources. They have a lot of money and political power, so it’s an uphill battle everywhere we go.”
Not only do these traditional power sources have a lot of money, they also make up a far larger portion of the power generation industry. According to Gilliam, solar energy still contributes less than 1 percent to the American power grid.
Much of the recent growth in the industry can be tied, ironically, to the recession. Solar power was one of the biggest financial winners in President Bush’s 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act that created an eight-year extension on tax credits of up to 30 percent of the installation costs to residential and commercial solar installations.
The Obama Administration has continued to invest in solar by focusing on research and development. Last summer, Obama said the U.S. Department of Energy had agreed to back $2 billion in loans for projects.
Gilliam hopes that recent government moves will help make solar energy a far larger player in the power game. As of May 3, SunEdison has generated 463 million kilowatts of energy across the globe, abating some 582 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The company has projects worldwide, including the largest European solar farm in Rovigo, Italy, and has had a hand in developing 450 facilities.
But for all the hype, solar remains problematic. For one it is inconsistent and requires energy companies to operate a backup system to ensure that energy is available when it is needed, regardless of the weather.
“Solar is not a base-load generator, meaning you can’t rely on it 24/7,” said Troy Whitmore, director of external affairs at Colorado energy cooperative United Power. “People say that it could be a good peaking source, but it’s not necessarily the case in Colorado. We need our peaking power between 5 and 7 p.m. in the summer, and by that time solar has diminished in its ability to produce.” (Sounds like and opportunity for home lithium battery development to me. Check with Sanyo next spring, they are about to come out with one.)
United Power sells 1.3 billion kilowatt hours to six counties north of the Denver metropolitan area, utilizing mostly natural gas, coal and hydroelectric, but it also works with renewable sources like solar and wind, which contributes less than 10 percent. “It’s highly subsidized in many areas of the country, and I’m not sure if the solar industry would be where it is today,” Whitmore said. “We need to spend our time developing batteries. At 10 o’clock at night there’s no solar generation happening, meanwhile you have natural gas, coal and hydro chugging along, so it’s the lack of availability.”
Gilliam admits home solar can only supply some of the energy needs of the region, adding he hopes battery and other technology may evolve in coming years to allow storage of home solar power.
“A solar panel is not going to generate solar energy during a 24-hour period, so you need some form of storage,” Gilliam said. “ Right now we’re using the grid. In ten years or so whether it’s batteries or some other form of storage, we’ll have various means of storing that energy.” (FYI; Solar thermal stores energy 24/7 and reduces dependence on fossil fuel and dirty coal.)
Home solar installation is the way of the future. Homeowners in most states have increasingly turned to the subsidized solar energy to lower their individual electricity costs.
Kate McLaughry of Centennial, Colo., installed solar panels on her family home with public utility company Xcel Energy, which works alongside SunEdison by buying energy and distributing it along with power in the form of natural gas. The system has been producing maintenance-free solar energy in her home since January 2009.
“From the day our meter was turned on, we have been free from high monthly electric bills,” McLaughry said. “We have never doubted that we made the right decision.”
“The benefit of solar is that once you invest in it and it’s not even that expensive anymore, you’ve fixed your energy costs for 25 years or longer,” Gilliam said. “You know exactly how much your solar energy is going to cost 20 years from now. You can’t do that with any other fossil fuel source.”
Still, solar will need to prove itself able to operate without government help as the tax credits provided by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act are set to end in 2016. But in the wake of the gulf oil spill and the nuclear troubles in Japan, Gilliam believes that opportunities in solar and other renewable sources will only improve.
From her standpoint, McLaughry cannot think of any cons to her family’s decision to power their home with solar panels.
“The question that always arises is what do you think the payback period is going to be?” she said. “It’s beside the point. When we sent our two sons off to college, we didn’t ask what the payback period was going to be. It was the right thing to do. Solar energy will become, increasingly and obviously, the way of the future.”
Article Source: New West Net, By; Michael Beall