New Report Outlines Bold New Vision for Solar in America

Media Releases

Environment Michigan

From laundromats and baseball stadiums, to homes and cars, solar energy is already enhancing energy security and reducing pollution in America.  A new Environment Michigan report outlines 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 Shelley Vinyard of Environment Michigan.  “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.   

Here in Michigan, places like Michigan State University and St. Elizabeth Catholic Church are already harnessing the power of the sun.  At Michigan State, the Pavilion has a 10 kW photovoltaic system installed on its south wall, which was the first project of its kind to receive funding from the state Energy Office.

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 Michigan 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 Detroit,” said Vinyard, “How much easier and more secure would it be to harness the heat and light that strikes our rooftops every day?”