U.S. Could Get Ten Million Solar Roofs in Ten Years

  • Published on July 3rd, 2008

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced a Bill to the Senate that would help homeowners to slash the cost of installing solar panels. The 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2008 will offer rebates for up to half the cost of installing solar photovoltaic systems, and run for ten years. A wide range of people and organizations, including homeowners, businesses, non-profit organizations, state and local governments will be eligible to apply.

The Bill will be formally introduced when the Senate reconvenes on Monday following the 4th July recess. Co-sponsors come from across the political spectrum, including Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Ben Cardon (D-MD), Arlen Specter (R-PA), John Warner (R-VA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The proposal looks very similar to an initiative launched in San Francisco late last month that will provide rebates of $3,000 to $6,000 in the largest city-wide solar promotion scheme in the U.S.

>> Want cheap solar? Join the most effective community solar purchasing program in the US.

The past few weeks have been quite tumultuous for the solar energy industry. Firstly, the Senate voted to block progress on a bill designed to introduce $17.7 billion of tax breaks for the renewables industry. Shortly afterwards, to howls of protest from solar energy industry, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) introduced a twenty two month moratorium on new solar projects on public land, in order to properly assess their environmental credentials. A few days later, they decided to reverse the decision. Last week also brought news of the introduction of a Democrat-backed Bill to introduce a national feed-in tariff for renewable energy projects. Phew! things are moving on rapidly in the world of solar – I wonder what next week will bring?

Other Posts on the U.S. Senate and Renewable Energy Policy:

Image Credit – Bkusler via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

About the Author

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.

15 comments

  • Cool roofing is the fastest growing sector of the building industry, as building owners and facility managers realize the immediate and long-term benefits of roofs that stay cool in the sun. Coolearthcontracting.com – provides full range services and specializes in commercial roofing, epoxy coating and Reflective roof Austin which helps to Reduce up to 15% of annual air-conditioning use.

  • Could happen, but a majority would probably be inexpensive solar water heaters.

    Solar water heating should be catching on faster in the U.S. Installers are getting better about providing reasonable prices. Local incentives, in Austin, for example pay for nearly 40% of the system, coupled with the Federal tax credit, 60% of the system is paid for. Payback time is then reduced to 2-3 years. More information on the Austin energy solar rebate can be found here http://www.sunbelt-solar.com/cost

  • Its to early to try such a bill. A solar cell currently captures only about 37% of the potential energy that could be collected. A new anti-reflective coating is in testing though that has promises of nearly 70-80% efficiency. We should push to do this first before we try to make homeowners invest in them.

  • Screw susbsidies, nationalize every natural resource. I'm sick of corporations or individuals holding us at gunpoint with the ownership of every way to make money, then turning around and telling us to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps". Libertarian morons then parrot this garbage with the hilarious "let market forces fix the problem" when the market is artificially controlled by said corporations and individuals.

    This is a step in the right direction.

  • To BrianIdaho: I agree with you. Oil companies are heavily subsidized. Photovoltaics need a similar subsidy, just to compete. However, governments have the right and responsibility to direct the marketplace toward the greater good of their constituents (individuals, in the case of Liberal Democracy, corporations in the case of Fascism), and should consider the effect, for example, of a 20-foot rise in sea level on all of our coastline cities, a possible result of continuing to burn fossil fuels. If the results are dire enough, government SHOULD meddle, regardless of the effect on some sacred cow corporation's bottom line. After all, some OTHER sacred cow corporation may have factories in the flooding lowlands…

  • Another foolish attempt by our government to meddle in things they know nothing about. Let the market respond to market forces, the companies that can build a competative, quality product will excel. Subsidies encourage uncompetative ideas and products… In addition, the short-term nature of subsidies and government intervention make it difficult for businesses to make smart decisions with respect to alternative energy.

  • Rod – I think you're wrong about the subsidies. They are an investment in a US-based solar power industry. Sure, solar will benefit greatly from R&D, but, despite what Bush thinks, it's only part of the way out, not the whole way.

    Providing subsidies allows the industry to grow to the point where economies of scale bring down costs to grid parity. Silicon, which costs about $30/kg to refine, has been going for close to $500/kg this year because of high demand in the solar industry. Once more silicon is produced to meet this demand, prices will drop (silicon costs = 70% of a traditional panel cost).

    It will be great when 2nd and 3rd gen thin film and combined solar solutions are devised and put into mass production, but the technology for viable solar power is ready today, and will be competitive with grid power without subsidies once the supply chain is scaled up to meet demand. Then you'll have some great companies ready to go to compete with each other with new technologies that will cost less than traditional grid power. Build your industry and R%D simultaneously for the best result.

  • Subsidies for solar go a long way to reduce CO2 emissions and prevent heavy metals from being released into the air everyone breaths. I think everyone "taxpayers" should be subsidizing these projects as a tool protect their children's future.

    Nobody cares about their children anymore, most of us don't know if we will make it through the week.

    Put the power in your hands.

    Texas Solar Power Company, Since 1995.
    http://www.TXSPC.com

  • A small correction – a rebate from the government does not change the "cost" of a solar installation at all.

    Instead, it shifts part of the cost to taxpayers. Since most solar panels seem to be installed on the roofs of middle to upper class homes by the owners, this effectively puts renters and lower income workers in the role of paying for energy production systems for people who make more money.

    Some people justify this subsidy in terms of helping to support an industry that still needs R&D, but many of the technology players in the solar power industry are mega corporations like BP, Applied Materials, and GE. Do those companies really need our help?

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