Solar Moving Forward Despite Low Subsidies

Despite relatively low subsidies, especially in comparison to the subsidies awarded to other energy sources, solar has been making it’s way as a valuable source of energy .

Incentives Graph

Graph Used From Baker Report and Think Progress .

The federal government provides incentives for every major energy production market and they exist to bridge the “chasm” between early adopters (about 16%) of a certain market and the majority adopters (about 84%). Crossing the chasm doesn’t necessarily mean all companies in the industry succeed, but that the industry itself succeeds. To get from initial adoption to full scale implementation, federal incentives support new energy resources on average for 30 years, including market control for oil, pipeline availability for natural gas, and dams for hydropower. Incentives provide economies of scale in a long term scenario that offer stability during the adoption process with gradual reductions in incentives as the industry matures.

Solar is at the chasm where continued government incentives are critical in assisting the jump between adoption phases. As it is, incentives for solar have been small compared to fossil fuels, according to a report by the Baker Center, “federal investment in solar technologies has been modest in a long-term histroical context relative to other energy technologies”. But, the incentives solar has received have really aided the industry. The growth of solar over the past two years has come with the federal investment tax credit and state renewable energy standards set in place. In addition to the decreasing PV prices, there’s been a 77% growth in the last 5 years.

This growth is spurring innovation, which in itself stimulates growth. Growth means more opportunity for jobs–the Baker Report estimating between 200,000 and 430,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs coming from the solar industry by 2020. There are already 100,000 Americans working in the solar industry. To top it off, solar provides more jobs per megawatt hour than any other energy industry.

Solar has huge potential in the U.S. Rooftop solar alone could provide 20% of America’s energy needs, which would help decrease impacts of price and supply vulnerabilities from fossil fuel supplies. Solar could be an important addition to the American energy portfolio, but continuing incentives will be a crucial factor in perpetuating this.

Incentives are used to move an industry up the adoption curve. Solar has come this far despite relatively low subsidies; imagine what it could accomplish if the federal government channeled incentives usually given to the fossil fuel industry into solar.

Renewable Energy Jobs For Returning Vets

Wind turbines

Finding a job is difficult enough in this tough economic climate without the added stresses of having just returned from tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. For vets returning to the US, green jobs may be the best solution to finding employment as well as applying technical skills acquired while they served.

While the overall unemployment rate in October hovered around 9%, the unemployment rate for vets was 12.1%, with veterans age 18-24 with a 30.4% unemployment rate, and the White House estimates an additions 1 million service members to return to civilian life by 2016–according to an article posted in the Associated Press.

It is challenging for service members to find employment after returning to civilian life becuase there is a lack of understanding between veterans and potential employers, says Lt. Guy Zierk in the AP article. Employers may not grasp that a task in the military, for instance a squad leader, can translate into an actual job position–entry-level management. It’s equally difficult for veterans to translate their skills into the civilian workforce and convey to an employer they possess the skills for the job.

Thankfully, the renewable energy sector is growing fast. The manufacturing and maintenance of wind turbines or solar arrays require similar skills that service members learn in the military, making green jobs a potentially good fit for a lot of returning vets. There is a pilot program, Troops to Energy Jobs,  which provides training and credentials to returning veterans, as well as college credits for their military training. Knowles Solar is also proud to say our panel manufacturer, SolarWorld, was one of the 70 employers at the Hiring Our Heroes job fair to support meaningful jobs for returning vets.

The solar and wind industry could be a great outlet for returning veterans struggling to find employment and help aid their transition into–not only the civilian workforce–but civilian life as a whole.

Ben Noland working on solar panel installation

Photo Credit: Knowles Solar Employee, and The Associated Press