the (new) american worker

Tax Credits Continue To Boost Residential Solar Market

Being tax day, I thought I’d take a look at solar power – a renewable that gets tremendous support from the federal government, in the form of tax credits and other incentives. According to a Dow Jones piece today, this push is paying off, most prominently in residential solar power installation, which experienced 37 percent growth in 2009, up from 351 megawatts installed in 2008.

Residential solar projects doubled their growth in 2009, likely driven by federal and state solar installation tax credits.

What does this all mean? It means steep reductions in solar costs for the residential consumer and … my favorite … good jobs! Dow Jones reports that the solar industry added 10,000 jobs in 2009, to round out at 46,000 total workers in the U.S. solar industry. Driving this demand demand is the $270 million of federal grants the government is doling out to solar project owners, and for consumers, credits like California’s 7.5% state income tax credit on the purchase and installation costs of home solar or wind energy systems.

Though credits like California’s have been widely reported, I wonder if tax season will be able to really drive it home. Seeing it on your return – and the credits available – could hit the right note with those on-the-fence consumers.


Paterson and the “Largest Solar Initiative in State History”
February 13, 2010, 11:45 pm
Filed under: solar | Tags: , , , ,

New York Governor David Paterson can barely keep himself in office, but today he announced “the largest solar initiative in State history.”

Um, ok. Let’s hope the New York Power Authority isn’t relying too much on Paterson for this, since it is questionable at this point if he will be able to withstand calls to step down.

If Governor Paterson can withstand calls to resign, he may be able to see through the start of "the largest solar initiative in State history."

In any case, according to Paterson’s statement, the NYPA is seeking developers who will build and operate up to 100 megawatts photovoltaic systems (PVs) across New York State. The NYPA will then enter into purchase agreements with developers, allowing itself to manage contracting and distribution to users like universities and public agencies. With the potential to power “the equivalent of 15,000 homes,” this will be the largest solar initiative New York State has ever undertaken.

Taking a cue from the Obama playbook, there is the requisite statement of stimulating “the economy with new clean energy jobs.” 50,000 new jobs, in fact – a “conservative” number, according to the press release. I think someone in the press office needs to ease up on the morning lattes – let’s see some hiring before we start calling 50,000 new jobs “conservative.”

Wind Farms Not Hiring
February 8, 2010, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Wind | Tags: , , , ,

One of the focal points of this blog is examining the political promises of job creation through a new energy economy. Personally, I believe this is achievable, and I hope that political showboating doesn’t get in the way of a establishing a real revolution, both for sustainable energy and the American worker. Unfortunately, as this Seattle Times article suggests, there is always one problem: demand must exist for these energy solutions if there are to be jobs to create them.

Despite building more wind power than ever before in 2009 – enough to power 2.4 million homes, according to the Seattle Times – many wind farms report they are slowing or stopping production altogether because of light demand. Even wind-turbine heavyweight Vestas, a Danish maker, has stopped production at its first U.S. plant, opened in 2008. Other firms report they would like to take advantage of the tax credits offered as part of last year’s federal stimulus, but must wait until credit markets loosen and demand for wind power increases.

The article cites as one example Hexcel Corp, a Colorado-based manufacturer of wind turbine parts.

“Hexcel qualified for $8.1 million in tax credits, but it’s unlikely the company will complete more of its facility or take the rest of the credits this year. It might use them in 2011 or 2012, however, depending on demand, Bacal said. When fully operational, the plant will hire about 80 to 90 people.” (emphasis mine)

We know that the limp economy does not make for the best conditions to kickstart new energy projects. Yet, the wind industry also claims that until the Obama administration forms a clear, reliable plan for mainstream incorporation of renewable energies, investors will continue to hesitate on wind.

These sorts of projects need years of planning and support – if the Obama administration is serious about renewable energy – and the president’s recent forays into nuclear and clean coal suggests he may not be – then incentives for investors and users – not just producers – must be created now.

Lastly, training and investment in human capital must also increase. Almost half of all wind turbines installed in the U.S. last year were made overseas. Competitive advantage must be established in some capacity here in America if the president is serious about getting Americans back to work building energy infrastructure. Otherwise, we will continue to lose growth opportunities overseas to countries that have already long made these human and technological investments.

–Mia Lamar

January 29, 2010, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Very informative piece in Forbes today on China’s continued dominance in renewables. Focus is heavy on solar power, as China recently announced it will build the world’s largest solar thermal project, and also the major challenges facing developers who dream of China-scale projects.