If we are to believe Fox News and the Tea Party, solar doesn’t work because the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra went belly up, despite the fact that it received $535 million in subsidies. While wasting an enormous amount of tax dollars on a company with a flawed business concept should raise everyone’s eyebrows, the conclusion that the Solyndra mess means “solar doesn’t work” is mind-boggling. It’s like saying “cars don’t work” because Chrysler went bankrupt in 2009, or “T-shirts don’t work” because Fruit of the Loom filed for Chapter 11 in 1999.
Solar is one of the most attractive renewable sources of energy throughout
the world, from China to Europe, and from New Jersey to California. Just a few days ago National Solar made the announcement that it will build a 400MW solar farm in Gadsden County, Florida, only a few miles west of Tallahassee. This project will not only provide hundreds of temporary jobs, it will also lead to about 120 permanent jobs, while contributing to America’s energy security.
In the US the solar industry employs more than 100,000 Americans, working at more than 5,000 companies, the majority of which are small businesses. The solar industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy, and in the last couple of years the price of solar panels has dropped so significantly that solar has become viable even for smaller residential projects. With or without Valdosta and Lowndes County, the solar industry will continue to grow and will contribute to our efforts to become independent of foreign oil.
Should you own a home with southern exposure that gives you plenty of solar radiation, this is a perfect time to invest in a solar array. A 5kw unit (20 panels / 360 square feet) costs about $9,000 after tax savings (federal and state) have been applied. If such a solar array is paid in cash, you will recover these costs after about 9 years, since you now produce your own energy. If you need to finance the solar array with the help of a bank, this may take up to 15 years, depending on your monthly payment. However, since solar panels have a warranty of 30 years, you will make money for at least half of the life time of your solar array.
We can go a long way as a society in terms of our energy security by embracing renewable sources like solar, wind and geothermal. If combined with measures to improve energy efficiency and energy conservation, this will not only save us money and create jobs, it will also protect our natural resources and provide us with a healthier environment.
P.S.: Between 2002 and 2008 the U.S. coal industry enjoyed subsidies of around $17 billion, while the solar industry only received $1 billion. (See also http://www.elistore.org/Data/products/d19_07.pdf)