Sanders leads with proposal for 10 million solar rooftops, Bush Admin puts brakes on solar projects
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT
by Amy Weiss
While the Bush administration put a two-year moratorium on solar energy projects on public land last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and colleagues drafted a bill to promote the creation of 10 million new solar rooftops in private homes and businesses over the next ten years.
The bill, co-sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Arlen Specter (R-PA), John Warner (R-VA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), provides incentives for solar unit installation, covering about half the average costs.
The proposed units are photovoltaic systems that use panels to turn sunlight into energy. The moratorium suspended both photovoltaic and concentrating solar plants--concentrating plants use mirrors to direct light to power steam turbines.
Sen. Sanders said in a statement Tuesday that the benefits of the bill, known as the 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2008, would be numerous:
We can reverse greenhouse gas emissions. We can break our dependence on foreign oil. Transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels can be a tremendous boom for the United States economy and create millions of good-paying jobs. This is a win, win, win situation.
Solar energy companies have been critical of the Bureau of Land Management's decision to halt new solar endeavors, understanding that a review is necessary but claiming that freezing the process altogether doesn't make sense.
"It doesn't make any sense ... This could completely stunt the growth of the industry," one solar company executive told the New York Times.
The director of a renewable energy trade group said in the same article, "I think it's good to have a plan ... but I don't think we need to stop development in its tracks."
Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sen. Sanders, told BuzzFlash that the bill was in the works before the Bureau of Land Management's moratorium. He also emphasized the importance of solar in solving current energy and environmental issues.
"Clearly we're at a time with oil prices setting records practically everyday and with the prospect of global warming that is going on," he said. "Solar energy is going to be a key part of responding to both of those forces."
Briggs anticipates the response once the bill is passed will be very positive. He said the experience in state programs that the bill is modeled after, like those in New Jersey and California, has been "that the technology is there, it's just a matter of making it available and at competitive prices. People want to do this and I think the impact would be dramatic."
Sen. Sanders, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will participate in a hearing in Albuquerque, NM on Wednesday led by Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to "consider the value and examine the progress of electricity generation from concentrating solar power." Briggs expects the Bureau of Land Management's moratorium will come up at the hearing.