The solar industry is just one technology in a large pool of power generation, and its growth depends on public interest and advocacy. The articulate thought leaders in this category have led the public discourse on solar power, spreading the word about the industry and motivating consumers and governments to go solar.
The solar industry is just one technology in a large pool of power generation, and its growth depends on public interest and advocacy.
Gabby Giffords, U.S. Congresswoman
If you want to find a true champion advocate of solar energy, look no further than Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords. After heroically surviving an attempted assassination at a Tuscon Safeway in January, that left six people dead and Giffords critically wounded, she made a surprise and emotional return to the House floor in August, casting a vote in favor of a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. As if that wasn’t enough, she then hosted a Solar Summit in Washington, D.C. in September.
In August Giffords entered the chamber to sustained, standing applause, shaking hands with colleagues whom she had not seen since that January day when she was shot (she was not released from the hospital until June). After the vote was cast (hers was in favor), Giffords received multiple additional rounds of applause, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called her “the personification of courage.”
When it comes to solar advocacy, her words speak for themselves: “Ever since I was first elected to Congress in 2006, advancing solar power has been one of my highest policy priorities,” she said in a video posted on her solar website (http://giffords.house.gov/legis/solar-energy.shtml).“This is because solar, along with other renewable energy technologies, is well suited to help address some of the biggest challenges facing our nation. Boosting our economic competitiveness, reducing our dependency on foreign oil, and mitigating our impact on the natural environment, solar provides a viable solution to all of these challenges.
“People have talked about solar’s potential for decades, but it’s really only in the last few years that solar has finally come into its own. In recent years, we have seen major improvements in both the economics and the performance of solar technologies. Solar is cost-effective in many areas of the country already and experts tell us that further improvements are on the way.
“Of course, some people say ‘Sure, solar power has great potential in Arizona, the sunniest state in the nation, but what about the rest of the country?’ Well, the exciting thing about solar is that it can be used just about anywhere. Consider the example of Germany, which currently has more installed solar power than any other country in the world. Germany has some wonderful qualities, but loads of sunshine is not one of them. In fact, the best place for solar power in Germany is only as good as the worst place for solar in the United States. Clearly, we have a huge untapped opportunity.
The fact is, solar is serious energy, and is poised to make a major contribution to the nation’s energy needs. All this industry needs is the right policies to help it take root and thrive. So look around. I look forward to working with you and helping to move solar forward. It’s not just my priority. It should be your priority too,” Giffords said.
In September, Giffords hosted a wide-ranging policy conference on the state and future of solar energy at the U.S. Capitol. The Giffords Solar Summit will featured perspectives on the state of solar energy from federal and Arizona officials, as well as a U.S. Marine Corps colonel and solar industry leaders and advocates, including Michael Bidwill, the president of the Arizona Cardinals and former chairman of the board for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Bidwill has developed and promoted tax and regulatory policies aimed at growing the solar industry in Arizona
George Papaconstantinou, Greek Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change
In September, speaking at EUPVSEC, George Papaconstantinou the Greek Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change of the Hellenic Republic, outlined an ambition project called HELIOS, a huge 10 GW solar installation planned for Greece. The project, which would be driven by investment from Germany, would deliver energy produced in sunny Greece to the rest of Europe.
“Project HELIOS, the Greek Solar Energy Project, represents the unique opportunity to use the abundant solar resources of Europe’s south and export clean energy to the north of Europe. It has clear technological, economic and political advantages for whole Europe,” Papaconstantinou said.
The project would expand Greek solar power production from 206 MW in 2010 to 2.2 GW by 2020 and up to 10 GW by 2050. “Greece enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year, almost 50 percent more sun radiation than Germany, the global leader in solar photovoltaics,” said Papaconstantinou at the conference.
The project, which would require an investment of 20 billion euros, is only in the planning stages, with many bureaucratic and legislative obstacles to be overcome for the project to be realized. The installation would cover 200 square kilometers of public land. For Greece, where unemployment continues to rise, the HELIOS project could create between 30,000 and 60,000 jobs.
In October 2009, Papaconstantinou was appointed Minister of Finance in the government formed by Prime Minister George Papandreou after the national elections, until June 2011, when he was appointed Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.
Julia Hamm, SEPA
SEPA’s President & CEO Julia Hamm has strong relationships with individuals at utilities and solar companies worldwide, and is knowledgeable about solar programs, policies, barriers and trends. She is a frequent speaker at regional, national and international conferences and has authored numerous articles on solar trends as well as utility solar programs. Julia is also the chair of the annual Solar Power International conference and expo, the largest solar event in the US with 23,000+ annual attendees from over 90 countries.
“Solar power has made significant progress during the last decade, and will continue to grow into a substantial portion of our nation’s energy portfolio as the economic and environmental benefits become even more valuable to utilities and their customers,” Hamm said.
“More and more utilities are integrating solar power into their energy portfolios, including many in states like New Jersey, Idaho and North Carolina,” said Julia Hamm, in conjunction with the SEPA’s release of the organization’s Utility Solar Rankings report, earlier this year. “Solar power has largely been associated only with California and the Southwest, but that’s no longer the case.”
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