1. Solar Industry is Still Expected to Shine Brightly Through Criticism

    By Sarah Kiner

    The House of Representatives, mostly Republican-led, is determined to cut spending and possible future subsidies for solar power and clean energy by focusing attention to reduce or eliminate federal grant and loan guarantee programs.

    The solar industry is concerned about the possibility of losing grant or loans because programs like the U.S. Treasury grant program are expected to expire this year (this is the program that helped keep solar power alive through the recession). Also, the Energy Department loan guarantee program that is ending on October 1 has allotted $35 billion in loan guarantees for solar, wind, geothermal and other clean energy projects, producing more than 68,000 jobs.

    Even though clean energy has provided so many jobs, the anticipation for a national clean energy standard is fading in Congress because delegates are debating about what kind of energy sources America should use. This deliberation in Congress could stall the advancement of solar energy, but solar energy has become increasingly more prevalent, so the threat will not cause this form of energy to dwindle down.

    According to Solar Energy Industries Association, solar energy alone employs 100,000 Americans and last year alone, solar power has grown by 67% last year. This growth has proven to be faster than any other U.S. industry.

    Opponents to solar believe that the solar industry should be self-reliant in the energy market, without the help of taxpayers. Yet solar supporters consider it unfair to have solar be in the energy market without the aid of the government because for decades the federal government subsidized coal, oil, gas, and nuclear energy. The U.S. government has supported nuclear and clean-coal technology research, oil drilling tax incentives, and helped finance dams for hydropower. Now it is time for solar to get some help.

    Richard Caperton, an energy analysis with the center for American Progress, says:

    If we stop spending money on some very cost-effective programs for clean energy, all it’s going to do is put clean energy at an even bigger competitive disadvantage.

    It is true that solar and wind power are the most costly ways to generate electricity, yet solar’s cost is dropping as it becomes more efficient and as the industry expands. In fact, the average price to install a solar power system has fell by 20% nationwide from the beginning of 2010 to the end of the year.

    (Source: USA Today)

  2. The Rooftop Solar Energy Challenge: Making Solar More Affordable

    By Sarah Kiner

    Spanning all of the United States, a large effort to reduce the cost of solar energy has begun with the aid of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. As a part of the SunShot Initiative, The Rooftop Solar Challenge is funded with $12.5 million, with the hopes of making solar energy competitive with other forms of energy by reducing solar energy’s cost by 75 percent.

    In order to achieve this goal, cities and counties are competing nationwide with the hopes of ensuring that the solar energy projects will not increase in price in the future. One of the main causes for the high prices of solar is figuring out a way to reduce the administrative process to get solar power from the planning stages to actually being found on rooftops.

    The Department of Energy has announced a new challenge where teams of local and regional governments will compete for funds that will bring down administrative walls to residential and small commercial photovoltaic solar installations through standardizing, simplifying, and digitizing the administrative process.

    The Rooftop Solar Challenge will also encourage participating cities and states across the nation to implement creative financing programs to help homeowners and entrepreneurs install solar energy systems on their homes and businesses.

    About 40 percent of the cost of solar energy is the result of system-balancing costs that include the capital required to pay for siting, permitting, and installing solar energy projects and connecting them to the grid. This challenge focuses on making local governments cut their upfront costs and paperwork, so it will reduce the cost to homeowners and businesses, but it will save time and money for local governments who are already struggling with tight budgets.

    In order to be a part of this challenge, cities and counties build teams with local governments in their state or region, along with other stakeholders, like local utility companies, with the goal of developing a step-by-step plan for how they will meet the Rooftop Solar Challenge goals.

    The Rooftop Solar Challenge will encourage participating government teams to compete in four critical areas: standardizing permit processes, updating planning and zoning codes, improving standards for connecting to the grid and increasing access to financing.

    During this process, each team must submit data, so that the U.S.Department of Energy can establish a baseline to measure each team throughout the years.

    The Rooftop Solar Challenge will make it easier for investors to capitalize on all of the benefits of solar energy technologies, support jobs for solar installers, create new opportunities for small solar companies across the country and help the U.S. remain a top competitor in this key renewable energy market.

    How would you lower the cost of delivering solar? Let us know in the comments.

    (Source: renewableenergyworld.com)