Solar Energy Warms Up
Solar energy is getting more and more attention as oil prices continue to climb. Guest speakers Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association; Frederick Morse, Senior Advisor for U.S. Operations to Abengoa Solar, which operates an 11MW solar power plant and is building a 20 MW plant; and Brad Collins, Executive Director, American Solar Energy Society,publisher of Solar Today, which recently won 3 APEX awards for publication excellence, appeared on today’s broadcast of Ira Flatow’s Science Friday on NPR. At issue was the ongoing debate over the Renewable Investment Tax Credit, a tax that supports 112,000 jobs in the alternative energy market and generates 19 billion dollars of investment. Whether or not to renew the credit before it expires at the end of this year has been an issue deadlocked in congress or months.
As well, the speakers addressed the current state of solar power. They raised several points. Sixteen percent of the homes in this country have roof space ideal for solar power installations. Installing existing solar panel technology on all of that underutilized space would generate half of the nation’s current energy needs. The price of the silicon used to create solar panels has fallen dramatically easing investment worries in alternative energy. As a result, investments in solar have increased, including the recent investment of 100 billion to explore alternative energy by T. Boone Pickens. As an energy producing resource, solar power has none of the difficulties fossil fuels do as a traded commodity. Solar power installations are a fixed cost. The price of solar power does not rise, but remains constant and predictable after the generating station is built. Due to energy saving, especially as energy cost rise, many people who installed a solar power system years ago are now generating a return on their initial investment. In the case of the speaker, his return is besting his IRA. And solar power is finding its way into more devices, including the Toyota Prius. By using solar power to offset some of the energy demands of the air conditioning and electrical equipment, it is estimated the range of the Prius will be extended 15%. The most important point: The US has some of the best solar potential in the world.