As the election season shifts into high gear, we're bracing ourselves for more stories about Solyndra and other so-called "scandals" of the Obama administration.
But let's not kid ourselves -- Solyndra is a sideshow to the real, incredibly exciting story of solar power over the course of this administration.
Here's the real news: The price of solar decreased by 50 percent during 2011! 50 percent! That's a game-changing number that has resulted in a jump in installations throughout the U.S. and Europe, according to a recent Bloomberg report. Indeed, here in the U.S., new spending on solar energy jumped more than 30 percent to $55.9 billion in 2011, surpassing the 1 percent gain in China to $47.4 billion.
These are astounding numbers and show real movement and vindication for President Obama's solar policies. Bring costs down -- and people will buy it.
But much like the struggling economy, while the numbers may reflect an encouraging trend, our work is far from done. Now, with solar making economic sense, we need more than ever to get out into the communities and convey the real value of solar power to the American consumer. Sure, it's good for the environment -- but that's only one of its many values to the American consumer. Solar also happens to be affordable, reliable, good for our national security, and good as a hedge against rising energy costs over time. Plus, it adds value to your home. And on top of that, like your third computer -- the iPod -- it's a cool gadget.
This type of excitement about solar is obvious in my organization's Arizona Solar Challenge campaign. In 2011, we hosted more than 100 community solar events that reached more than 11,000 potential customers -- and ultimately saw over 4,000 residential installations of solar. The City of Yuma alone doubled in just one year the amount of solar power installed over the previous seven years!
Now, we're bringing this solar challenge to New England, giving the original colonies a chance to match what Arizona's Tea Partiers are already doing. Proving, as an aside, that this isn't a Red State versus Blue State issue. Solar simply makes sense -- good economic sense.
Reading the papers and the blogs, one would think the only movement in solar power was Solyndra's movement to bankruptcy. But these community solar campaigns are working -- and that's telling evidence that the death of clean energy has been greatly exaggerated.
Let's be honest: Solar prices were largely responsible for Solyndra's bankruptcy. That's an economy reality that even Mitt Romney can and should be touting. Consolidation in the marketplace was a good thing while he was at Bain. So too in the solar industry. It's getting stronger, less expensive -- and cooler to have.
The solar success story is a huge one for this administration. And it's time to tell the story truthfully.
Brian Keane is the President of SmartPower, a non-profit marketing organization funded by private foundations to help build the clean energy marketplace by helping the American public become smarter about their energy use.