New Report Outlines Bold New Vision for Solar in America

Media Contacts

Environment America Research & Policy Center

Washington, DC – Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and three solar business executives joined Environment America to lay out a bold new vision for solar energy in the United States.  From laundromats and baseball stadiums, to homes and cars, generating energy from the sun is already enhancing energy security and reducing pollution in America.  A new Environment America report outlines a vision for using the sun to meet 10 percent of the United States’ energy needs by 2030.

“Americans today import 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,” said Sean Garren, “It would be much easier and more secure to harness the heat and light that strikes our rooftops every day,” he added.

“At a time when we spend $350 billion importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries every year, the United States must move away from foreign oil to energy independence,” Senator Sanders said. “A dramatic expansion of solar power is a clean and economical way to help break our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, improve our geopolitical position, and create good-paying green jobs.” 

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 makes the case that there are many ways to take advantage of the sun’s energy. Solar energy can be converted to electricity, or used for lighting, heating and cooling. It can replace the fossil fuels we burn at electric power plants, in factories, in our homes, and even in our cars.  While the report outlines this vision for the future, it also profiles various applications of solar energy currently in use, such as:

  • Wal-Mart’s use of skylights in has cut energy costs in some stores by 15 to 20 percent by reducing the need for electric lighting;
  • Laundry facilities, hotels, hospitals and even the Boston Red Sox have adopted solar water heating to reduce their consumption of natural gas for water heating; and
  • A Frito-Lay plant in California uses solar concentrators to provide heat for cooking snack foods.

The report finds that getting 10 percent of our energy from solar energy within two decades is equivalent to the energy that the U.S. currently produces at nuclear power plants, more than half the energy  currently consumed in American cars and light trucks, or nearly half as much energy 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 America called on local, state and federal governments to commit to expanding solar energy.  This can be accomplished by adopting strong policies to make solar energy an important part of America’s energy future.  Environment America recommends:  investing in solar technologies, research and development; requiring that utilities get more of their electricity from renewable resources like solar; requiring that buildings codes move towards all new buildings using zero net-energy; educating the public and training an effective workforce.

“We applaud Environment America for its leadership in addressing our nation’s biggest energy challenges – our dependence on fossil fuels and the need to address the pollution that is causing climate change – while also addressing our nation’s biggest economic challenge – creating jobs,” said Jamie Resor, chief financial officer for groSolar, a solar energy installation firm based in White River Junction, Vt. “This report, combined with the Solar Bill of Rights (, provides a policy roadmap for leveling the playing field for an energy source that more than 92 percent of Americans say they want more of, now.” 

“As a developer, financier and installer of solar PV systems that has created more than 60 jobs over the past two years, we at Standard Solar strongly endorse far-sighted legislation, such as the Senator’s “10 Million Solar Roofs” bill,” said Anthony Clifford, Chief Executive Officer of Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Standard Solar. “We see it as a means to create real, sustainable, domestic jobs and to help homeowners and businesses better control their energy costs while reducing harmful emissions and stress on the power grid during hot summer weekdays, especially between Washington, DC and central New York state.”

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