At this point in time, Americans seem eager to embrace solar energyas part of a lower-carbon–and more energy-independent–future. Solarincentive programs across the country are performing well (in somecases, too well for their own good), and as the cost of the technologybegins to drop a little, solar is a better option than ever. But wehave enormous amounts of work to do if we want to be true leaders inthe solar industry: we manufacture some solar components on Americansoil, but much of the industry still relies on foreign-made parts.
Additionally, how do we make sure to avoid redundancies in solarR&D, or work to solve some of the biggest remaining challenges forsolar, such as best grid integration practices and water resourcemanagement? US Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) is sponsoring abill that may help the solar industry find the structure it needs toanswer these questions. On her website, Giffords says:
This legislation is aimed at charting the course forfederally funded solar research, development and demonstrationprojects…It will help the Department of Energy to allocate research anddevelopment funds wisely, thereby helping to advance emerging solartechnologies quickly and effectively.
Giffords presented her “Solar Technology Roadmap Act” to the HouseScience & Technology Committee last week, where it received a warmenough welcome to send it out to the House floor at large. AsRenewable Energy World reports,
Giffords’ legislation would require theU.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to appoint a group of experts to createa long-term plan to guide solar energy research and its transition intocommercial uses. The bill also authorizes $2.25 billion for solarresearch over the next five years.
The group would identify research anddevelopment that needs to occur to help improve the performance andreliability of solar technologies, decrease cost, reduce water use andmitigate any negative environmental impacts. It would be subject to acomprehensive revision every three years to keep it current.
The lack of industry-wide structure is notalways a bad thing and has led to some very interesting developments,such as New Jersey’s pioneering REC solar incentive program, or Gainesville’s FIT,and solar manufacturing facilities in locations you might not normallyexpect. But providing clear oversight to the industry could help allsectors better identify unique goals and strategies for meeting themeffectively.
We want America to be competing at the topof the industry, leading the way in solar research, development, anddeployment. If it fights its way through Congress, Rep. Giffords’ SolarRoadmap may help us achieve just that.