Renewable energy sources such as Solar power have become an increasingly popular energy resource over the years thanks to decreasing prices and increased awareness via reduced production costs, green energy advocates, government incentives and panel manufacturers’ marketing efforts.
Although solar power is still approximately three times more expensive than electricity produced by natural gas, prices have fallen by two thirds since 2008. To further solar power’s affordability, federal and state governments are offering tax breaks and subsidies.
The federal government offers a tax credit of 30 percent for the gross cost of solar panel installation for residents and businesses. On top of the tax credit, each state offers its own incentives for all forms of renewable energy, including solar.
The Department of Energy (DOE) rolled out the SunShot Initiative in 2007 to decrease solar energy system costs by 75% before 2020. When this goal is reached, systems will even be affordable without any rebates or tax cuts. The main goal has been to drive innovative technology.
Under the initiative, the DOE began backing the company 1366 Technologies this October with a $150-million loan. 1366 believes their new manufacturing process will significantly cut costs, making prices competitive with that of coal.
New thin-film photovoltaic cell technologies are also bringing down the costs and large companies like GE are beginning to manufacture the panels. In October GE announced plans to build the largest thin-film panel factory in the United States.
These initiatives are not only bringing down costs, they are creating jobs and with their implementation, protecting the environment.
Solar’s portion of the power business remains small but has great potential to flourish. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), solar power is capable of providing many times the total current energy demand.
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative; http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/
Information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency: http://www.dsireusa.org/