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Government must push solar power more

Sunday, December 16, 2012
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The cost of solar power has come down to earth, so dramatically that in some areas of the country, its power is as cheap, or cheaper, than that generated by fossil fuels. So why isn’t the government doing more to promote the solar alternative in Metropolitan New York and Long Island, for example, where much of the traditional power grid wrecked by Superstorm Sandy is now being rebuilt? This was the question asked by David Crane and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in an oped-ed column in Thursday’s New York Times, and it seems like a good one.

Given that solar panels are 80 percent cheaper today than just five years ago, and given the threat to the traditional power system’s infrastructure caused by increasingly common extreme weather events, solar probably should be getting more attention when there are massive hits to the distribution system as there were from Sandy, as well as last year’s tropical storms, Irene and Lee. Or in areas of the country where a lot of new construction is going on. Heck, if the state of Florida required all new houses to be powered by solar, think of the energy that could be saved!

Much of the problem, say Crane (the president of an energy company) and Kennedy (an attorney for the National Resources Defense Council), is due to monopolistic electric utilities: They don’t want to cooperate with a competing technology that might hurt their bottom lines. Government red tape is another sore spot: Permitting and siting requirements cause delays ranging from 120 to 180 days and push the cost of solar installations up 25 percent to 30 percent.

In Germany, where the authors say licensing and installation only takes eight days, and where the sun shines only about as much as it does in Alaska, nearly 50 percent of the nation’s power is solar-generated.

The United States needs to get with the program. Not only is solar becoming cheaper and more reliable — less prone to disruptions caused by things like hurricanes — it is superior environmentally: No coal or oil have to be burned and no fracking or invasive pipelines are needed.

Maybe best of all, solar doesn’t create additional greenhouse gases, the very ones implicated in the sharp jump in extreme weather events.

 
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comments

December 16, 2012
8:35 a.m.
manjoe says...

WRONG. Government is already pushing solar power too much, wasting tax payer dollars by betting on specific companies and technologies instead of letting the market choose the winners. What America does NOT need now is more wasting of our tax dollars on failed policies.

December 16, 2012
9:38 a.m.
hodgkins.t says...

The most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions and increase the viability of alternative energies -without the government choosing a winner- is to slowly impose a carbon tax. That way industry and consumers will change technology and behaviors to optimize their own profit and minimize cost. The regressive tax could be used to help offset low income households with increased heating and an electrical costs.

December 16, 2012
12:58 p.m.
myshortpencil says...

I can't believe the Gazette is turning in freshman-level editorials. You guys are college grads, right? You owe us the duty to present a fair economic comparison of energy alternatives. Picking and choosing only the facts that support your conclusion is disingenuous and unworthy of graduate level writing and analysis. I don't know what's happened in the editorial department, but it has surely gone downhill.

December 16, 2012
6:40 p.m.
muggy says...

$90 billion dollars have gone down the "alternative energy" rat hole. Think Solyndra.

The Daily Gazette plays "Mastermind." The Mastermind always has a great idea. The problem is that you must have the brute force of oppressive government behind the Mastermind's ideas in order for them to get enacted. And if the Solar push doesn't work, it won't be because of the government's fatuous idea. It will be because the people aren't it doing it correctly!

This is the road to statism and a soft tyranny.

December 16, 2012
6:53 p.m.
Fritzdawg says...

OK, I'll think Solyndra. Out of the billions spent on alternative energy companies, only 8% (Solyndra) went belly up, as compared to the number of corporations taken over by Baine in the same period that tanked (23%).

December 17, 2012
11 a.m.
albright1 says...

There is no possible way that Germany generates 50% of its power by solar. Look it up...it is actually 4%. You Gazette writers are seemingly imbeciles when it comes to anything the least bit technical. You should stay out of the field of writing about these matters.

December 17, 2012
1 p.m.
Fritzdawg says...

Dear Gazette,

"In Germany, where the authors say licensing and installation only takes eight days, and where the sun shines only about as much as it does in Alaska"

You're kidding, right?
I very much favor researching alternative energy, but such blatant falsehoods make you look like fools.

December 17, 2012
2:01 p.m.
gina99 says...

Another comedy piece. There is no demand for solar even with massive government support. Anyone that seriously believes we need more Solyndra payola for Democratic contributors is in the bag or hopelessly uninformed.

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