Solar Industry Still Growing Despite Lack of Clarity in Federal Energy Policy

As I have mentioned, the Solar Power International show a few weeks ago was a beehive of activity: 27,000 people busily learning, networking, excitedly establishing newbusiness connections. As Americans, we need to be proud of thisindustry. Here are a few data points to keep in mind.

Growth. In the US, we put on about a gigawatt ofsolar in the last 12 months. This, of course, is small in comparison toother forms of energy, but it’s the fastest growing source of energy inthe US, predicted to grow to 10 gigawatts by 2015.

What’s Driving It. In the main, this growth is notdriven by government incentives. If anything, the incredible lack ofclarity of support for solar at the federal level scares investors awaylike so many rabbits. The growth is fueled by ever-lowering costs,bringing solar ever closer to “grid-parity,” i.e., costs equal to coal,etc. And while consumers add more solar on their roofs, utilities arestarting to bring on huge solar fields, realizing that the risk thatwould have been associated with coal (pollution) and nuclear (you name it) are simply not there with solar.

Jobs. The solar industry employs almost 100,000 Americans across all fifty states, and is projected to support over half a millionAmerican jobs by 2016. In many cases, these are folks who have beendisplaced from traditional industries, e.g., housing, in the continuingfinancial meltdown. Every day, new opportunities are created inmanufacturing, engineering, installation, and sales.

Perhaps one day our elected leaders will get on board.

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