Thursday, August 14, 2008

Solar Power Plants

Solar power plants are starting to pop up in some of the strangest places. This plant located in Germany, a country not known for an overabundance of sunny weather, produces 12 megawatts of electricity - enough to power about 12000 homes.

Germany has in place a healthy program subsidizing the production of solar power in a proactive effort to encourage new household and commercial investment in solar. So does Spain. As a result, those two countries are where most of the new power plants are being constructed and hundreds of thousands of new "green collar" jobs have been created in the process.

Several large-scale solar power plants are in the planning or construction stages in Florida and in the American southwest, mostly in Arizona, California, and Nevada. But there's a catch; the utility companies and project investors are in a "wait and see" mode until Congress decides how it is going to approach energy policy. The current meager incentives are set to expire this year. Not reauthorizing incentives at current levels will doom most of these projects.

Energy legislation was tabled as Congress went into August recess, thus insuring further paralysis for major advancements in solar energy in the United States.

The legislation has been held up by those who insist that we need to open up natural preserves and beach-front property for oil and gas drilling. Those same forces secured billions of dollars in subsidies for oil and gas companies in recent years as a concession for the very limited tax credits for developing and installing alternative energies.

Meanwhile, over dependence on fossil-based fuels at the exclusion of everything else brought us to where we are now. John McCain went down to Louisiana recently to campaign for an American petro-future but they called the trip off at the last minute when a barge spilled oil in the Mississippi the night before the photo opportunity was scheduled. Talk about bad timing (or good timing depending on where you stand).

Arguing for more drilling as an energy policy is like a drug addict insisting that all of his problems would be solved if he just had better access to good heroin.

Call or write your Congressman and Senators and let them know you would like to see more alternative energy tax credits for individuals and businesses. And more funding for research and development of alternative energies would be money well spent.

Here's a list of the largest solar power plants in the world currently in operation.


A New York Times story today breaks news of two new solar power plants planned for California producing a total of 800 megawatts - enough electricity to power almost a million homes.

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