Environment Arizona Releases ‘Building a Solar Future’ with Rep. Giffords in Tucson

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New Report Outlines Bold Vision for Solar in America

Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center

Tucson – From laundromats and baseball stadiums, to homes and cars, solar energy is already enhancing energy security and reducing pollution in America. Environment Arizona joined with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Andy Squire of Tucson City Councilwoman Shirley Scott’s office today to release a report outlining a vision for using the sun to meet 10 percent of the United States’ total energy needs by 2030.

“The sun provides more energy in an hour than all the coal mines and oil wells do in a year,” said Bret Fanshaw, an associate with Environment Arizona. “This solar energy is limitless and pollution free. America can and must figure out how to tap the heat and power of the sun. Solar power is also increasingly cost competitive with older, dirtier sources of energy.”

Building a Solar Future: Repowering America’s Homes, Businesses and Industry with Solar Energy examines a wide variety of solar technologies and tools, including photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, solar water heaters, solar space heating, and passive solar design. The report also profiles various applications of solar energy currently in use, such as:

  • Walmart’s use of skylights in some of its big box stores has cut energy costs by 15 to 20 percent by reducing the need for electric lighting.
  • Laundry facilities, hotels, hospitals and even baseball’s Boston Red Sox have adopted solar water heating to reduce their consumption of natural gas for water heating.
  • A Frito-Lay plant in California uses solar concentrators to provide heat for cooking snack foods.
  • Solar energy can be paired with advanced energy efficiency techniques to create zero net energy homes, which produce as much energy as they consume. Zero net energy homes have already been built in parts of the country, are possible in all climates, and often save money for consumers over time.
  • As more plug in electric cars and trucks enter the marketplace, solar energy will power our nation’s transportation system as well.

Arizona, with over 300 days of sunshine each year, has the largest capacity of any state for solar energy. However, less than 3% of the energy used in the state comes from the sun. The majority – roughly 90% – comes from burning coal, oil and natural gas.

Despite this fact, there are many examples of solar taking big steps in Arizona. In 2007, Tucson was selected as a Solar America City and currently has around 1.1 megawatts of solar power on City of Tucson buildings – including the 120 panels at the Clements Recreation Center. This site alone reduces approximately 9.1 tons of CO2 each year.

“This report shows the possibilities of solar energy and how solar is an achievable path to our energy security,” said U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. “We still have work to do before solar energy can make up a large percentage of America’s energy needs, but we are moving in the right direction.”

The report finds that by achieving a 10 percent goal for solar energy, within two decades the sun could provide more energy than the U.S. currently produces at nuclear power plants, more than half as much as it currently consumes in American cars and light trucks, or nearly half as much as we currently obtain from burning coal. Solar energy can play a major role in weaning the nation from dangerous, polluting, unstable and, in many cases, increasingly expensive forms of energy.

Environment Arizona called on local, state and federal governments to remove the barriers currently impeding the spread of solar energy. This can be accomplished by investing in solar and adopting strong policies to make solar energy an important part of America’s energy future. Such policies include financial incentives, advanced building codes, public education, workforce development, research and development, and a strong renewable electricity standard requiring utilities to get a percentage of their electricity from renewable energy, like solar.

“Americans today need barrels of oil from a desert half a world away, in the most unsettled and dangerous region of the earth, just to power a trip to the grocery store in Tucson,” said Fanshaw. “How much easier and more secure would it be to harness the heat and light that strikes our rooftops every day?”