Forecasts for Solar Energy Look Rosy
There are a spate of optimistic forecasts for the solar energy industry. According to Bloomberg, solar power may meet 4.2 percent of U.S. electricity supplies by 2020. And the Washington Post, relying on research by Climate Action, reports an even greater jump: "Within 15 years, the sun could supply 10 percent of the nation's power needs."
Both estimates would require a huge jump in solar energy in the years to come. Just how big? That would be quite a jump as all renewables together in 2008 totaled just 7% of the nation's energy consumption, and solar made up just 1% of the renewables, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.
What is the catch? As the Bloomberg report suggests, to increase capacity from 1,400 megawatts to 44,000 megawatts in a decade you need to find investments in solar energy reaching $100 billion.
Solar energy projects are picking up steam. These reports correspond with developments in many states that have seen a huge increase in solar energy systems on the roofs of both residences and businesses. Take this report from the Republican Herald in Pennsylvania that solar is "going like great guns." The Sunshine Solar Program in Pennsylvania reimburses homeowners and small businesses up to 35 percent of the cost of the solar energy system.
Citing the spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which administers the Sunshine Solar Program, the Republican Herald reports that "Prior to 2009, the state produced about 4 megawatts of electricity from solar-generated sources; today, that figure's up to about 30 MW with solar systems currently installed, and with proposed systems ready to supply about 100 MW more already in the planning stages. . ."
Not everyone is supportive, however. As one reader commented on the Republican Herald article, "Most of these solar ventures are a perversion of the free market. Most would never stand on their own if they had to prove themselves economically, like other free market ventures."
We hope that he or she is not one of the investors required to come up with $100 billion.