With more than 25 years of combined experience in professional sports between us, we know a thing or two about competition. Right now our state and our nation are deep in the throes of one of the most important competitions of our generation: the race to lead the new renewable energy economy. And without action from New York's lawmakers, the Empire State will see its chance at a solar championship slip away.
The stakes are high in this game. Winners will become home to vibrant hubs of new economic opportunity, local investment and job creation. America's solar power industry is already experiencing record-breaking growth. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that U.S. solar market value expanded 67 percent to $6 billion and supported 100,000 jobs last year. Those are high quality U.S. jobs all across the solar supply chain from manufacturing and design to construction and operation.
And that's just the beginning of how solar means good business. Solar keeps energy dollars in-state by harnessing the power of the sun, a fuel source that is reliable, local and free. It delivers reliable electricity when and where we need it most without requiring expensive grid upgrades. It provides a predictable hedge against the volatile prices of natural gas and other fossil-based resources. It offsets the most polluting and pricey portion of New York's electricity mix, the peak generation used to power our air-conditioners running on these hot summer days. That mid-day solar power production reduces brownouts and offers welcome relief to business-as-usual energy spending that has given us some of the highest electricity rates in the country.
But it takes the right policies to build a strong local solar economy and reap those many benefits. Without leadership from our state capital, New York is going to see that opportunity for leadership slip through our grasp -- like a touchdown pass getting intercepted or a glove-grazing puck hitting the net.
Once one of the nation's top solar power markets, New York is already falling behind. Our neighbors in New Jersey added nearly seven times as much solar as New York did last year. The sun doesn't shine any brighter in the Garden State. Their workforce is not any more qualified for solar jobs. Their energy consumers aren't significantly more environmentally-inclined. It's state energy policy that has made all the difference. New Jersey made a clear, long-term policy commitment to solar power, letting the global renewable energy industry know that the state is open for business. And as a result, we are losing solar jobs and other benefits over our borders.
It's not too late for a comeback. Lawmakers in Albany are currently considering a new policy that would get New York back in the game. The bi-partisan New York Solar Jobs Act would develop enough safe, reliable solar to power 500,000 homes. Analysis from the non-profit grassroots group Vote Solar shows that it would support tens of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars that could be reinvested in the Empire State's economy. It's a playbook for delivering economic, environmental and public health benefits tomorrow and for generations to come.
Lawmakers have just over a week left until the legislative session ends and they go home until 2012. New York cannot afford another year of sitting on the sidelines of our nation's growing solar economy. We are urging lawmakers to pass the New York Solar Jobs Act before the clock runs out.
Mike Richter is the all-time winningest goaltender for the New York Rangers, the team he played with for all 15 years of his National Hockey League career.
National Football League veteran Sage Rosenfels is a quarterback for the New York Giants.