Certain days in the calendar call for different forms of reflection. Today, the 4th of July, should foster sober contemplation of the strengths and weaknesses of American society; how and why it has changed for the better; and a somber understanding of where we have work to do in ‘the search for a more perfect union’.
Clearly, the American political dialogue is broken, with too many interested more in scoring points than securing prosperity. We have, in the polemics of the day, too many who have lost sight of a simple reality: you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.
Thus, when it comes to Global Warming, there are those who have a semblance of acknowledging scientists’ dire warnings and others, dominating one party, who demonstrate anti-science syndrome. And, sadly, many of the Anti-Science Syndrome suffering Haters Of a Livable Economic System seem to believe — truly believe – that we need to “Drill Here! Drill Now” so that we can “Pay Less!”. This belief flying in the face of what we are learning about the limitations of oil ‘production’ and the exponential demand growth in minor economics like the People’s Republic of China.
What is truly disheartening is that embracing facts — rather than seeking their own ‘facts’ — might help lead these people, who in theory wish the United States prosperity and security, into a no-regrets strategy that would create prosperity through a domestic clean-energy path forward.
While it seems the height of fancy to hope for, a simple reality: the United States could achieve a ‘clean energy independence day’ in a remarkably fast timeframe if the political, social, and business spectrum would wake up to this possibility and decide to move forward with it.
As the American Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reminded me today (see after the fold), American and Americans fostered the birth of modern solar technologies — and we remain in a situation to recapture a serious leading role if we simply choose to do so.
And, the same is true with essentially every clean-energy arena, from eneryg efficiency to wind to … America and Americans have had leadership roles. The atrophying competitive position results from a lack of leadership … and that too many ‘leaders’ are more interested in their own facts to score partisan points than actual truth to foster better policy.
A Solar Revolution - Coming Soon
There’s a reason solar advocates love Independence Day. The bright July sunshine means that solar energy systems from Maine to California are pumping out free, clean energy for their owners. These solar pioneers are harnessing our abundant solar resources and are helping make America energy independent this Fourth of July.
Most people don’t know that America is the birthplace of the modern solar energy industry. In 1891, an inventor from Baltimore named Charles Kemp filed the patent for the first commercial solar water heater. The Carnegie Steel Company modernized the design a few decades later.
In the 1950’s, Bell Labs created the first modern solar electric cell using silicon, which is still the semiconductor of choice for many solar panel manufacturers. Bell’s technology leap helped the U.S. win the space race by providing the “killer app” for satellite power generation.
In 1974, five major industry members decided to form the Solar Energy Industries Association; the first trade association for solar energy businesses in the U.S. In 1979, the White House installed what would be the first of many solar installations at that site. (This article from the Washington Post discusses the first installation during the Carter administration and the recent announcement by President Obama, but doesn’t mention the panels that the Bush administration installed in 2003.)
In 1986, the first large-scale concentrating solar thermal-electricity facility opened in Kramer Junction, California. Beyond the solar thermal collectors, it works just like a traditional steam-turbine power plant.
I won’t take up more valuable fireworks-and-barbeque time with a lengthy dissertation on solar energy in America, but if you’re a geek like me, we’ve got some great resources for you. For example, Solar Works for America tells the stories of regular people across America who have found jobs in the solar industry. As one of the fastest growing industries in the country, we hope that solar can help you be economically independent through “going solar” yourself, training for a solar job or maybe even starting your own solar company.
Solar energy is a classic American success story of technology, innovation and competition. In the coming months, SEIA will be announcing a lot of new ways to help you fight for a solar-powered America. Enjoy the fireworks, but stay tuned: the real solar revolution is just beginning.
Yours in sunny solidarity,
Michael Rader, SEIA