The end of a long winter and the welcomed start of spring bring the all-American sport back to life. The last season transitions to memory, baseball fans ponder the present condition of their teams and we all smile at the opportunity to go outside without a coat. The convergence of sun, green grass and beer strikes such a contrast with cloudy skies and shoveling out from the winter we just had in D.C., baseball season brings with it a sense of earned freedom from the burdens of snow shoveling, potholes, heavy outerwear and heating bills.
Spring also brings another event, the release of SEIA's annual "U.S. Solar Year in Review". And though I look forward to the Nationals' season with much excitement, 2009's statistics on solar's growth inspires the same sentiment of pride and hope. In the face of a debilitating recession, solar shined. U.S. solar electric installations grew by 37 percent. An explosive doubling in the residential grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) solar market, gains in the solar heating and cooling market, and a tripling of utility grid-tied PV installations was only over-shadowed by increased optimism by the investors.
In 2009, venture capitalists invested more in solar technologies than any other renewable. In total, $1.4 billion in venture capital flowed to solar companies, and for an industry that had a total U.S. sales volume of roughly $4 billion, this signals huge optimism about near-term growth. And it goes without saying that with industry growth comes jobs and opportunity.
Just as investing in the right rookie leads to dividends in the playoff hunt, investing in solar leads to stable, long-lasting jobs from coast to coast. While other sectors were flat or declined significantly, overall employment in the solar industry increased by 17,000 from 2008 to 2009. Due to its growth and popularity, solar now employs 46,000 U.S. workers and supports an additional 33,000 jobs in other sectors. We expect that number is likely to surpass 60,000 by the end of 2010.
While the young all-star that is solar is starting to make significant contributions to the team, on the other side of the mound, there are the aging coal and oil industries that have long argued their cost advantage, while neglecting to mention their massive public subsidies and lobbying efforts. As players, they are overpaid and poor environmental performers. As we come up on Earth Day, a time when we reflect on efforts to conserve resources and protect our planet, I wonder why we continue investing our tax dollars to keep polluters' bottom lines in the black? As a country, we can no longer afford their contracts.
If we hold true to environmental stewardship as a core American value, we should all have an active voice in advocating greater use of solar in our communities. I and nearly 2,000 other Americans have already done so by signing the Solar Bill of Rights, a petition for leveling the playing field for solar - an energy source that 92 percent of Americans say they want more of, now. There is no stronger way to voice your support.
So as you don your cap and shades for the fresh new season, remember to watch all players at the games, both on the field and above it. What better way is there to enjoy the all-American game, but with an all-American energy source that creates jobs and opportunity for local businesses? Just as we slogged through winter working our way to something better, it's time to do the same with fossil fuels and accelerate our move to solar now. Smart money is putting their bets on the young all-star to help carry the team to the "Win" column.
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