Several news surveys confirm what we all know-that support for solar energy is growing, but what may be somewhat surprising is that this support cuts across party lines and is growing. Some like solar energy because of global warming, others because of jobs, and still others because it is a good way to save energy.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the studies "are painting a rosy outlook for the renewable energy industry." One study predicts, according to the Times report, that over the next year "more than half the solar companies expect to hire more employees, boosting the nation's solar workforce 26%. The study by the Solar Foundation, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group, said 93,000 people work in the solar energy industry in the U.S." How can you say no to more jobs in a growing global market?
According to another survey-supported by a leading manufacturer of solar panels, but we can forget about that detail for now - 94% of Americans think it is important for the nation "to develop and use solar energy," and this support again was consistent over party lines.
This next study probably may have nothing to do with the upcoming November elections. According to the NRDC Action Fund, "Voters from Connecticut to California and Michigan to Florida are more likely to support candidates who support an energy bill that cuts climate change pollution, based on new poll results based on surveys by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund."
That may not mean that everyone is going to go out and buy a solar energy system for their home, but there is hard data that residential use of solar energy is way up. According to an article in greentechsolar.com, SEIA®/GTM Research U.S. Solar Market InsightTM reports that the U.S. solar electric industry is projected to grow more than 100 percent in 2010 over 2009. This report suggests that the solar industry's goal to power 2 million new U.S. homes with solar energy each year by 2015 is within reach.
Even climate skeptics in Kansas are embracing cleaner energy, as reported earlier this week by The New York Times. Don't mention Al Gore, but "saving energy, though, is another matter." A project there sought to separate energy issues from climate politics. According to the Times:
If the heartland is to seriously reduce its dependence on coal and oil, [the project's chairwoman] and others decided, the issues must be separated. So the project ran an experiment to see if by focusing on thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction and economic prosperity, it could rally residents of six Kansas towns to take meaningful steps to conserve energy and consider renewable fuels.
And some of these towns reduced their energy use by 5 percent.
Support for renewable energy may depend more on how your frame the argument - and the solution. Cap-and-trade policies are a non-starter and are seen as what doomed the last energy bill. They will get an even colder reception in the new Congress. According to a report in the Daily Finance, "Republicans can be friendly to solar energy - just don't use the terms ‘recover act' or ‘stimulus package' when lobbying them for government subsidies." The benefits of solar energy have caught the eye of many political figures such as Republican political adviser Mary Matalin, who was quoted in the Daily Finance as saying: "There is a crop of young Republicans who understand the market force of new technologies, particularly solar and other renewable."
The elections are drawing near, and it will be interesting to watch how this broad support for solar and renewable energy translates into legislative action in the new Congress and state assemblies across the nation.