Senator Bernie Sanders emphasizes the need for distributed solar energy. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate's green jobs subcommittee, recently introduced the 10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Water Heating Act of 2010. The legislation is aimed to encourage the installation of solar energy systems and solar water heaters on the rooftops of residential and commercial buildings by 2019. The bill has nine democratic cosponsors.
Senator Sanders recognizes the tremendous effects that distributed solar energy can have on the American energy portfolio. The green jobs subcommittee found that installing photovoltaic systems on the roofs of 10 percent of existing buildings could meet 70 percent of peak electric demand. In addition, the draft bill claims that "electricity produced from distributed solar photovoltaics helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, does not emit harmful air pollutants, such as mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, uses existing rooftop space, and does not require additional land for generation, thereby conserving natural resources and wildlife habitat."
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the distributed solar energy industry has seen an unprecedented increase in popularity since December of 2009. Over the past few weeks, about 1,300 megawatts worth of distributed solar initiatives have been announced or approved across the United States. At peak output, that is roughly equivalent to a large nuclear power plant.
So why the sudden increase in interest? Energy analysts suggest that an oversupply of solar modules and the rise of Chinese companies tapping low-cost manufacturing have pushed prices down, making photovoltaics a more realistic option for utilities to achieve renewable energy mandates. In addition, distributed solar panels are installed near local transmission lines, avoiding the need to construct cumbersome and costly high tension wires.
The 10 Million Solar Roofs Act would authorize rebates for photovoltaic solar energy systems which, along with other incentives, would cover $1.75 per watt for installation. The amount of the rebates would decrease over the course of ten years. Homeowners, businesses, nonprofit groups, and state and local governments would be eligible. The legislation would also ensure that participants receive information on incentives to improve energy efficiency.
Senator Sanders modeled this bill after similar rebate incentives in California, New Jersey, and Hawaii. The prices of solar units in these states have fallen as the number of installed solar energy systems increased.