Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the U.S. Senate’s green jobs subcommittee, has introduced the 10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Water Heating Act of 2010 to encourage the installation of 10 million solar systems on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade along with an increase in solar hot water capacity of 10 million gallons.
“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,” 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.”
The proposed bill has 9 co-sponsors including Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
The bill sites the success of state-wide solar incentive programs like those implemented in California, New Jersey, Hawaii and Florida. It also frames the need for increased solar not just as a greenhouse gas emissions issue, but as a jobs and national security issue. Sander’s office says that the bill could create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next 10 years.
The bill sites that although solar photovoltaic systems are cost effective over time, the upfront costs can make them prohibitive. Yet, “the use of solar photovoltaics on the roofs of 10 percent of existing buildings could meet 70 percent of peak electric demand.”
U.S. households currently spend US$13,000,000,000 on energy for water heating. In Hawaii, which leads the country in solar water heating installation, a new program to mandate that all new homes use solar hot water heater is projected to save the average household $600 annually and reduce the oil consumption of the State by 30,000 barrels in 2010 alone.
The proposed rebates for solar photovoltaics will start at $1.75 per watt in 2010 and taper down to $.50 per watt by 2019. Solar hot water heaters will get a rebate of $1.00 per watt thermal-equivalent in installed capacity in 2010. The bill stipulates that the program be administered by the Secretary of Energy.
These rebates along with other incentives would cover up to half the cost of the 10 million solar power systems and 200,000 water heating systems. Home owners, businesses, non-profit groups and state and local governments would all be eligible. All participants would also receive information on incentives to improve energy efficiency.
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