A vast majority of Americans, across all political parties, overwhelmingly support development and funding of solar energy. Ninety-one percent of Republicans, 97 percent of Democrats and 98 percent of Independents agree that developing solar power is vital to the United States.
These and other findings were reported June 10 in the SCHOTT Solar Barometer, a nationally representative survey conducted by the independent polling firm, Kelton Research.
The survey revealed that 77 percent of Americans feel that the development of solar power, and other renewable energy sources, should be a major priority of the federal government. Independent voters felt strongest about this, compared to voters in other political parties, with 86 percent of Independents supporting the statement.
When asked which one energy source they would support if they were President, 41 percent of Americans picked solar. Solar and wind together were favored nearly 20 times more than coal (3 percent).
"These results are an undeniable signal to our elected leaders that Americans want job-creating solar power, now," said Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
According to the survey, nearly three-quarters of Republicans (72 percent), Democrats (72 percent) and Independents (74 percent) favor an extension of the federal investment tax credits (ITC) as a way to encourage development of solar power and fund continued development of the technology. In contrast, only 8 percent of Americans believe the ITC should not be extended.
Current federal legislation, which provides incentives to spur the growth of renewable energy, is set to expire at the end of the year. Experts predict that without long-term renewal of the legislation, the solar energy industry will struggle to maintain its momentum. According to independent analysis by Navigant Consulting, this would translate into the loss of 39,000 jobs, as well as the loss of nearly $8 billion in investments. When wind is included, 116,000 jobs and $19 billion in investment are at risk, according to the report.
"Solar development means job growth for Americans, by Americans, in an industry that will benefit America," said Dr. Gerald Fine, president and chief executive officer of SCHOTT North America. "Rather than rely on foreign sources for fuel, the U.S. can aspire to become the world's leader in clean energy."
Extension of the tax credits continues to be in doubt as the House, Senate and Administration debate differing plans. In May, the House Ways and Means Committee cleared H.R. 6049, which would extend the solar investment tax credit for six years. According to SEIA, this legislation would secure America's clean-energy future by closing an income tax loophole enjoyed by hedge-fund managers on their off-shore accounts.
"The U.S. Senate has an opportunity to act decisively by passing the Renewable Energy & Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049) this month. This is smart policy that will help solar become a powerful economic engine for the country, stabilize energy prices for consumers and businesses and improve America's national energy security. A vote against this bill is a vote against what the vast majority of Americans are demanding," said Resch.
"When you consider that, according to the American Solar Energy Society, nearly 7,000 gigawatts (GW) of solar generation capacity exists in the American Southwest, America is truly a sleeping giant," said Fine. "Americans want to wake this giant up."