The Solar Halo Gets Bigger But Does It Always Fit?

What I have called The Solar Halo continues to grow in the political marketplace.

The latest indication of its strength is in the Department of the Interior’s decision to grant the Solar Decathlon space on the National Mall, despite ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the green space, which is starting to look like the small back yard of a family with several big dogs.

The Decathlon is an annual competition where teams of colleges students try to build sustainable family homes, using a variety of energy-saving and energy-creating technologies. Last year’s winner was Virginia Tech (Go Hokies). The University of Illinois was the top American team at the 2009 competition.

The contest is modeled on a similar competition in Europe. A competition will be held in China in 2013.

The initial decision to find the finals some other space led to a big Congressional protest , which Interior finally responded to. The site will be near the new FDR monument, which itself is just southeast of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial due for dedication this year.

This is not the only evidence that a “solar halo” exists among policymakers. I drive by one each day a few miles from home, a small development with a big sign out front reading “work with the Sun,” because they’ve put up a solar connector on the roof.  Local governments are busy proclaiming themselves “alternative energy zones”  in a desperate attempt to bring in jobs.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This was supposed to be the year of the solar backlash, with resurgent Republicans holding hearings condemning loan guarantees and state legislators taking up bills aimed at curtailing aid, and utilities cutting their support.

But, partly due to Libya and partly due to the solar halo, it hasn’t worked out that way. Even people in Republican states like solar energy, polls show, and those who try to make it a partisan issue are having a very tough time.

There are and always will be obstacles. Local governments can be stupid. There are court fights that turn on making choices among various technologies  and maybe the most efficient doesn’t always win.

But anyone who doubts that solar power has a political halo over it right now isn’t paying attention.


The question is what should the industry do about it, and what must it do to keep it?



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Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since 1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his living online in 1985, and launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of e-commerce, in 1994. He has written for a host of off-line and online publications including The Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and ZDNet. He has covered PCs, networks, telecommunications, cable technology, Internet commerce, the Internet of Things, Open Source and Health IT, He began covering alternative energy at his personal blog,, in 2007.

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