Clean Power solar power facts not discussed in obama romney debate

Published on October 17th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


5 Solar Power Facts that Obama and Romney Did Not Debate

October 17th, 2012 by  

A company called inovateus solar has just issued a white paper called The Good News About Solar: Five Facts You Should Know, which is perfect timing because, although fossil fuels got quite a bit of notice during last night’s debate between President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, solar power facts were in short supply. However, the two candidates did spend a lot of time talking about improving the climate for U.S. businesses, so let’s check into the five solar power facts offered up by this particular U.S. company (from South Bend, Indiana to be precise) and see how that relates to President Obama’s energy and economic policies.

solar power facts not discussed in obama romney debate

Solar Fact #1: The U.S. Solar Industry Continues Strong Growth

According to the white paper, the global solar industry has averaged 40 percent growth per year for the past nine years, and the U.S. is up to more than 5,700 MW of installed solar capacity.

A nice chunk of the domestic growth is coming from job-creating public-private solar partnerships for new installations on federal property, especially as the Department of Defense aggressively pursues solar power with strong support from the Obama Administration.

Solar Fact #2: The Cost of Solar Continues to Drop Dramatically

Inovateus also notes that the average cost of solar panels dropped by an “astonishing” 50 percent in 2011 alone.

The installed cost of solar power is also dropping, but at a slower pace. That’s the bad news, since “soft costs” such as permits, installation, and grid connections can account for about half the overall cost of a rooftop solar array.

However, as part of President Obama’s SunShot initiative, the Department of Energy has formed partnerships with the private sector to bring down the soft costs of solar power. Part of that involves a juicy $10 million in prizes for winning DOE’s new “Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition.

Solar Fact #3: Solar Power Creates Jobs

The white paper totals up more than 100,000 workers in the U.S. solar industry, or more than double the estimated employment in 2009.

That’s a pretty impressive record given the aftereffects of the 2008 economic collapse, and it’s no accident. When President Obama pushed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka “the stimulus”) through Congress in 2009, he didn’t get as much money as he wanted, but he did get enough to pump millions of dollars into solar projects that have created new green jobs, including a program for converting derelict brownfields to clean energy.

Solar Fact #4: Solar Incentives are Only a Fraction of Coal, Oil, and Gas Incentives

Inovateus notes that federal incentives are vital for U.S. businesses to compete in the global market, but current policies fall short.

That’s not for lack of trying. President Obama’s solid support for clean energy incentives such as the wind energy tax credit is well documented, but conservative leadership in Congress has resisted.


Solar Fact #5: Solar is an Essential Part of the Energy Mix

According the white paper, “solar is already the fastest growing energy sector in the US and by 2014 it will likely be the largest source of new electric capacity in America.”

Now, the wind industry might have a bone to pick with the latter part of that statement, considering wind’s epic growth over the past few years, but the undeniable fact is that clean energy is here to stay, and there is practically limitless potential for growth.

In the course of last night’s debate, Governor Romney took issue with what he described as an under-use of federal land for new fossil fuel development, but (aside from bending the facts) he ignored the big picture. The Obama Administration has opened up more federal lands for alternative energy development, so for what it’s worth, there has been and will be more exploitation of public property for energy production.

In the big picture, energy is energy, and if a new form of energy can do a better job than the old, then it’s out with the old and in with the new. Otherwise, horsepower in its literal form would be playing a far bigger role in the U.S. energy mix right now. Not a pretty picture, right?

Speaking of the big picture, clean energy is only one side of the job-creating coin. The other side is the Obama Administration’s pursuit of new federal fuel efficiency standards that create jobs, which did at least get some coverage in the debate.

Image (cropped): Solar power, some rights reserved by david.nikonvscanon

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Peter Lynch

    • FYI – Incentives Total to end of 2009 for each Category:

    Oil & Gas – $4.86B for 91 years =
    $442 Billion

    Nuclear – $3.5B for 52 years = $182

    Biofuels – $1.08B for 29 years = $31 Billion

    Renewables – $370M for 15 years = $5.5 Billion

    • Got a source for that? Would love to repost it, but need a source.

  • Lilia Rhodes

    Solar power is doing great! It even saves energy and stress on debates. =)

  • John P. Falchi

    This is good news about Solar Power in the U.S.!

  • “but conservative leadership in Congress has resisted.” This is crux of our dilemma here in the US. Fossil fuel money has been allowed (we are all responsible for this) to corrupt both houses of government which has, as noted, severely hampered our efforts to build out a clean energy producing system. Shame on them and on us for letting it happen. Even though they have the money we have the votes. Your votes for congress are more valuable than for president, if you think about it. Know where those candidates stand on this overriding issue and vote accordingly.

    • excellently said, all of it.

      and this is great: “we are all responsible for this”

      btw, do you know of a great site for helping readers to look at their congresspeople’s records?

  • Solar gets barely any subsidy to compete with fossil fuels when military costs for overseas oil is factored in and paid for by tax payers, not the oil companies….


    • alternative_energy

      This is a key fact most people don’t realize.

    • thanks for that reminder. that should be the #1 mention anytime we discuss subsidies. or #2 behind the cost of ruining our climate (which is also a subsidy).

  • jburt56

    And fact #6–Solar doesn’t require that men get their legs blown off by IEDs when fighting oil wars.

    • hmm, that might be a noteworthy one

      (understatement for literary effect)

    • Mcjibbers

      Solar doesn’t compete with oil. It competes with nat gas, nukes, and coal. Switching to solar is not going to keeping us from fighting wars for oil.

      • Bob_Wallace

        It will.

        Some people will charge during the day. Other people will put panels on their houses, send the power to the grid, and take back wind-electricity at night.

        In both cases solar replaces oil.

        Here’s another way. Electrified rail, which high speed rail and more of our low speed rail will be, does not use oil.

        Furthermore, as people move from air travel to HSR for moderate length trips we’ll burn less oil in airplanes.

        Solar won’t do the job alone, but along with wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and biomass/biogas we can quit importing oil and cease getting jerked around by oil-sheiks.

      • Ronald Brak

        Well, actually, the United States still burns a ridiculous amount of oil for heating and it’s possible for electric heat pumps and electric resistance heating to compete with that. But yeah, not many electric cars and trucks on US roads at the moment.

        • Bob_Wallace

          US heating oil use peaked in 1996 and has fallen over 40% since then. It’s one area where we’ve made good progress. Insulation and weatherstripping programs have paid off. What we need to see now is more use of geothermal heat pumps.

      • Correct, but Algae could!

      • alternative_energy

        Oh the contrary. if we start mass producing electric cars solar will indeed be competing against oil. I would envision more people wanting to buy solar panels for their home to produce electricity for their car.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Turns out that if people do buy an EV or PHEV that makes them more likely to install rooftop solar.

          Makes financial sense. Save money on gasoline. And then save more money on electricity.

      • but EVs do. and EVs need electric fuel.

        not always a good comparison, but a decent one.

    • dynamo.joe

      Is that actually a fact? There is at least one plan to solar up the Sahara and export the power to Europe. Basically all the same places that now supply a good chunk of the world’s oil.

      Is there some sort of alchemy of the human psyche that comes from solar power so that the people in charge there become paragons of virtue? I think probably not.

      The only difference is that legs will be blown off in solar power wars.

      You can claim that doesn’t impact the US, but the North Atlantic Treaty Organization says otherwise.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Well, North Africa sells solar to Europe when the Sun is out, Europe sells power back to N. Africa when the Sun goes down. Two way streets are a little less likely to be abused.

        And the thing is, Europe can make its own solar if North Africa gets all pissy. They can install in Greece, Italy, southern France, Spain and Portugal and get almost as many solar hours.

        Europe could not make its own oil.

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