Is Solar Energy Joining U.S. Outsourcing?

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) urged Congress to make a firm commitment to solar energy and to fund research, development and deployment programs at $125 million for FY2005, which will begin October 1. In testimony submitted to the House Appropriations Committee Energy & Water Subcommittee, SEIA’s Executive Director, Glenn Hamer, cautioned lawmakers that U.S. solar electric production last year dipped for the first time in recent memory, while production abroad was up 50% in just one year. This continues a multi-year loss of US market share for solar power production, a technology invented in New Jersey 50 years ago.

Washington, D.C. – April 1, 2004 [] “As Americans face growing concern over the outsourcing of their jobs, a booming solar industry is increasingly developing abroad,” Hamer said. “The opportunity to participate in world-class research programs is one of the principal considerations for companies when deciding where to locate manufacturing. Congress should invest in a strong solar R&D budget to promote America as a home for this growth industry.” Solar electric (photovoltaics/PV): SEIA requested $100 million for this program, which has helped solar manufacturing prices drop by more than half in the last ten years. The U.S. Department of Energy’s goal is to generate solar electric for $.06 /kWh by 2020; to do this, research funding must increase. Concentrating solar power (CSP): SEIA requested $20 million for this program, which has been hampered by inconsistent funding. CSP is already generating 350 MW in California, and with consistent research support, could achieve large-scale generation in the $.07 – $.09 / kWh price range by the end of the decade. CSP could also serve as a clean source of hydrogen fuel, further reason to support this important technology. Solar heating and lighting, and zero energy buildings (ZEB): SEIA requested $8 million for zero energy buildings, and $5 million for solar heating and lighting. Home builders are embracing the goal of the ZEB program, which is to have buildings eventually produce as much power as they consume. Solar will play an integral role in achieving this dream of buildings that do not add to our energy needs. Solar water heating is already cost-effective, and is used extensively abroad, but development of new lightweight manufacturing materials could cut the costs further and speed its deployment domestically.