Solar Energy Technology and Clean Energy Jobs

The Potential for Solar is There

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee January 28th, 2010

No one is against solar. The potential for job creation and energy production is undebatable. The only thing that needs to be figured out is the details. Furthermore, the question also remains on what to do with conventional energy sources. Sen Inhofe stated in his opening statement that to promote clean energy, it is not necessary to hammer at fossil fuels. Energy companies invest in renewables by themselves. He believes that cap and trade is not the way to go and he stated that there just aren’t enough votes. Sen. Barrasso partly reflected this view by saying that new requirements on fossil fuels would be burdensome.

Ken Salazar was the first witness and his statement focused mainly on our progress with the solar sector. According to Salazar, they have 120 solar project applications that would like to take advantage of the 23 million acres of public land that could be used to generate power. They’re also fast tracking a number of applications. By December of this year, they hope to have permitted 13 commercial scale solar projects, generating 4,500 MW of power, equivalent to 15 mid size coal power plants. These projects would create over an estimated 40,000 jobs. Salazar stated that eventually, we would be able to generate 30% of our nation’s energy from solar technology.

Sen. Sanders and Sen. Lautenberg are sponsoring a bill calling for 10 million solar roof tops. Salazar agreed that incentives and tax credits would help develop the potential for solar on all levels, residential and industrial. He also confirmed that the job creation potential for solar is immense.

One of the key issues that was brought up was the implementation of a renewable energy standard (RES). Salazar as well as the other witnesses, mainly businesspeople, agreed that a RES would be a good thing to implement.

On the question of subsidies, Salazar recommended that they should be technology neutral and only be temporary. The main suggestion that Salazar gave was that the government needed to pass long term policy so that these new technologies can stand on their own.

The second panel consisted of two businessmen who own two solar tech companies. They stated their recent achievements and stressed the huge potential solar has to create jobs throughout the United States. Any project will have a ripple effect up and down the supply chain and therefore, solar will not only benefit the southwest states. Their suggestions was to extend already existing loan guarantees until 2016.

Andrew P. Morriss, Professor of Law and Business at the University of Illinois College of Law, suggested that congress look into the net job growth in the renewable sector and use those findings to determine funding. The logic being that the jobs created by the solar industry would be coupled with job loss in the fossil fuel industry. Another suggestion was to organize competitions to discern which technologies would be the most competitive.

-Jason

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