Originally published October 7 2008
Hope for a Solar Future - U.S. Reverses Its Moratorium on Solar Energy Research
by Zephyr Faegen
(NaturalNews) On June 27th of this year the NY times reported that The Bureau of Land Management put a two year moratorium on all government applications for solar energy production on public lands (1).
They did this out of concern for "Environmental impact". You are probably re-reading those first couple of sentences and thinking "how is this possible?", how can The Bureau of Land Management actually think that by pulling the "plug" on these applications and freezing any and all forward motion on public solar projects -- on what is estimated to be over 119 million surface acres of usable land, mostly throughout the southwest -- be a responsible and intelligent decision?
They can't, because no less than a week later they decided to reverse their decision due to public out cry. James Caswell BLM Director was quoted saying in a Christian Science Monitor article:
"We heard the concerns expressed during the scoping period about waiting to consider new applications, and we are taking action. By continuing to accept and process new applications for solar energy projects, we will aggressively help meet growing interest in renewable energy sources, while ensuring environmental protections" (2).
Personally, I'm grateful for all of the people who stood up and acted on this, like citizens of this great country it's because of moments like this that we prove that we still have a say in our government, and that we need to keep holding their feet to the "Solar fire".
The solar industry has had a long and arduous journey and it still needs help. It started in 1884 with the invention of the photovoltaic cell by inventor Charles Fritts. From there we can track solar energy development throughout time. From the use of solar cells as a back-up power source on the Vanguard I satellite in the 1960's to the failed attempts by the Carter administration to bolster the industry in the late 1970's and to political and social setbacks of the 1980's, Solar research and development has been waiting for its due, and I think its time may just have come, but the U.S. is definitely not the leader.
As of today, Germany is creating 4,150 Megawatts (MW) of electricity from photovoltaic resources mostly subsidized from government "Feed-in Electricity Tariffs". Spain comes in second at 640 MW. Japan is a distant third at 318 MW until a severe set back in 2005 when their government pulled the plug on subsidies for solar panels for homes and subsequently dropped production to a current 230 MW. But Japan is now getting back in the game with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announcing that Japan has a long-term goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80 percent by 2050 as well as positioning itself to provide subsidies and tax breaks for solar panel makers starting in 2009. Where is the United States in comparison? Well in 2007, The United States' domestic solar photovoltaic market grew to a whopping 220 Megawatts. A far cry to Germany's 4,150 MW (just for reference, Germany is roughly the size of the State of Montana), and still behind Japan's 230 MW.
As of right now, home and business owners in the U.S. can get up to a 30% tax credit for installing and using Solar technology for energy production, The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 made this possible, but that all ends on December 31st 2008. The Senate is currently discussing extending the crucial tax incentives tagged onto the "Securing America's Energy Independence Act of 2007". This bill is currently being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee. If passed it will extend the solar energy investment tax credits for homeowners and businesses here in the United States for eight more years. A much needed boost for the solar industry, especially in these economic times.
Rhone Resch, The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President was quoted as saying "This bill emphasizes the importance for Congress to enact long-term, comprehensive clean energy legislation. We look forward to working with the Congress, to craft a comprehensive and effective policy blueprint for a self-sustaining clean energy infrastructure in the United States."
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About the authorZephyr Faegen is first and foremost a citizen who believes that the only way to instill real change is to go to the roots of the populace. A dedicated naturapath for the last 5 years Zephyr has spent extensive time studying alternative modalities and it has changed his life. Zephyr currently lives somewhere in the United States... for now. :)
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