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Report: Solar Could Meet 10% of US Energy Needs

Environment America last week released a new report that outlines the road to meet 10 percent of the United States' energy needs by 2030.

Building a Solar Future: Repowering America’s Homes, Businesses and Industry with Solar Energy looks at a variety of solar technologies including photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, solar water heaters, solar space heating, and passive solar design.

The report not only outlines the how these technologies could be used but also takes a look at a number of places its they're being used to good effect today.

These projects include Wal-Mart’s use of skylights, which has cut energy costs in some stores by 15 to 20 percent and a Frito-Lay plant in California uses solar concentrators to provide heat for cooking snack foods.

Environment America called on local, state and federal governments to commit to expanding solar energy, recommending investment in solar technologies and research and development, as well as requiring that utilities get more of their electricity from renewable energy and requiring that buildings codes move towards all new buildings using zero net-energy.

“We applaud Environment America for its leadership in addressing our nation’s biggest energy challenges – our dependence on fossil fuels and the need to address the pollution that is causing climate change – while also addressing our nation’s biggest economic challenge – creating jobs,” said Jamie Resor, CFO for groSolar. “This report, combined with the Solar Bill of Rights, provides a policy roadmap for leveling the playing field for an energy source that more than 92 percent of Americans say they want more of, now.”

While Sentor Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was on hand for the release of the report, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) rolled out the first of a package of clean-energy job-creation bills based on those ideas - specifically an idea he heard during a visit to Holy Cross Energy in Glenwood Springs. Holy Cross Energy has teamed up with the Clean Energy Collective to offer ways for homeowners to pool their resources and invest in solar panels located on a separate plot of land.

It's a new method of tapping solar energy, known as community solar projects or "solar farms," which has the potential to increase the market for solar power. But solar energy providers across the state and the country have found that the federal tax code hasn't taken into consideration growth and innovation in the solar industry. While the law currently allows homeowners to take an income tax credit for PV cells installed on individual homes, it doesn't allow the same credit for community solar projects.

Senator Udall's Solar Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Act of 2010 modernizes the tax code regarding solar energy, enabling homeowners who invest in community solar projects to take a 30 percent tax credit just like individuals who install PV cells on their houses. Like other solar tax credits, it would expire in 2016 unless renewed.

"The best ideas to create jobs come from people on the ground - they are the experts on the needs and demands in our communities. And this is the perfect example of how we can work together to turn those good ideas into reality," Senator Udall said. "I'm proud to introduce this bill based on what I learned on the Western Slope. It will expand the use of our abundant solar power, strengthen Colorado's renewable energy industry and create good-paying jobs throughout our state."

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