USA’s solar energy – a chequered history, but now resurging
Changing Cities: Where Are the Solar Panels Mr. President? By Carrie Halperin abc news, Sep 23, 2012 “…..In 1979, [President Jimmy] Carter predicted at the dedication ceremony of the White House solar system that by 2000 solar panels like the one on the roof would either be supplying cheap, efficient energy or “a museum piece , an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”
During his administration huge strides were taken in curbing the country’s dependence on foreign source of energy, including investing heavily in renewable power. But with a shift of administrations and the new Reagan era, research and development budgets for renewable
energy were slashed and the Department of Energy eliminated tax breaks for solar and wind projects.
Carter’s worries about his solar panels ending up in the museum proved prescient. Half the panels were taken by the Unity College cafeteria in Maine, but the other half did indeed end up as museum pieces, now housed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History , the Carter Library , and the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China.
Yes, that’s right China, which seems a bit symbolic, since China now produces close to 80 percent of the world’s solar water heaters.
While solar at the White House may be a hot button issue in the wake
of the scandal around the failure of Solyndra after it received a $535
million federal loan, it should be noted that the solar industry is
actually expanding quickly in the United States, and under the Obama
administration solar is having a real resurgence, helping lift the
cloud that has surrounded the industry.
“As the costs of solar energy have continued to drop, the United
States has seen tremendous growth in solar energy installations,” DOE
spokeswoman Jen Stutsman told ABC News. “Over the last four years,
solar energy in the U.S. has more than doubled and the industry now
employs 100,000 American workers — in design, construction,
installation, manufacturing and more,”
Though the Solyndra affair has been a rallying cry for opponents of
investing in alternative energy, the investment in the company
represented less than 1 percent of the DOE portfolio.
Around the country the Obama administration is fast-tracking solar
projects on public land. Solar zones have been established in six
states, helping to expedite permitting of solar on public land.
Before Obama took office, there were no solar projects on public land.
Now 17 have been approved, with the potential to supply power for 7
million homes. It’s what the administration calls a landscape
approach. Instead of letting the solar power industry grow
organically, the administration has been carefully planning where to
best zone the projects — generally choosing zones that have abundant
sunshine and easy access to transmission lines to deliver power.
According to a recent report from the Solar Energy Industry
Association 2012 has been a comeback year for solar. There has been a
dramatic reduction in the cost of solar helping to fuel this solar
resurgence, and solar installation has increased by 116 percent from
Q1 to Q2 of this
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