SOLAR AMERICA INITIATIVE
Written by: Solar Energy Industries
WASHINGTON, DC - The Department of Energy has released details of the "President's Solar America Initiative," proposing the largest funding increase for solar energy research in US budget history. First announced during President Bush's State of the Union address, the initiative aims to decrease the cost of solar to be competitive with existing sources of electricity in 10 years. The program also aims to deploy 5-10 GW of photovoltaics (PV) capacity by 2015 - enough solar electricity to power roughly 2 million homes.
The proposed FY 2007 budget for the SAI is $148 million, a 78% budget increase, which includes $139 million for PV and $9 million for concentrating solar power. The Solar Energy Industries Association hailed this initiative as a key victory for the next great high-tech growth industry in the US: solar energy.
"With this program, the US has reclaimed global leadership in investing in cutting-edge solar power development," said Rhone Resch, president of SEIA. "The President's Solar America Initiative will improve our competitiveness in a global solar market that is growing at 40% per year and help bring high quality jobs back to the US. We applaud the President and Secretary Bodman of the Department of Energy for their vision of an economy based on clean, reliable solar power."
The SAI will place emphasis on funding industry-led partnerships to accelerate market-ready PV using aggressive new goals and a new focus on manufacturing and production R&D barriers. Its projected goals and methods are consistent with those of "Our Solar Power Future," a roadmap developed by the US PV industry in September 2004.
"Within 10 years, we estimate that this program will result in 10 GW of grid-connected solar electric capacity," said Mr. Resch. "That would be 20 times today's levels, enough to reduce 10 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. Moreover, the program will also help grow the industry with 30,000 new jobs in the US solar industry, and make solar electricity cost-competitive with conventionally generated electricity."
Going forward, the solar industry will urge Congress to fully appropriate the requested solar budget increase, and to expand the research budget for all commercially viable solar technologies, including solar water heating. The industry will also prepare to lead the formation of "Technology Pathway Partnerships" along with national laboratories, universities, states, and other public entities as described in the SAI.
"For years, natural gas was considered the transition fuel from fossil energy to renewables," said Mr. Resch. "This initiative signals that the transition has begun toward solar. Combined with the Federal tax credits that started on January 1st, this initiative solidifies solar as an important part of our energy portfolio."
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