The issue of solar energy production gets its fair share of detractors, cynics and skeptics. The cold hard fact that solar energy production can only be a success if the sun is shining shouldn't be underestimated. For that reason alone, there are obvious geographical locations where solar energy production will be more successful than others.
One place where sunshine is guaranteed is California. In a recent New York Times article, Eric Lipton and Clifford Krauss reported that the state of California is experiencing something akin to a solar gold rush on the back of government subsidies. Their article highlights that the increase in state and federal solar energy subsidies is creating a booming clean energy market in the Golden state.
The article focuses on NRG Energy, who is building a solar energy facility which will house nearly a million solar panels - which will provide enough electricity to fuel 100,000 homes. The vast expanses of land coupled with copious amounts of sunshine is helping to make California a very attractive proposition for solar energy producers. Helpful state tax incentives and federal government grants in the form of subsidies complete the final pieces of the 'solar gold rush' mentality.
The NY Times article quotes NRG's chief executive David W. Crane as saying "I have never seen anything that I have had to do in my 20 years in the power industry that involved less risk than these projects. It is just filling the desert with panels." Cranes comments come at a time when private investors are finally beginning to see the light when it comes to solar energy. The high profile failure of Solyndra was a rare example of a high-risk business venture. According to the NY Times the new low risk solar ventures don't appear to be having any difficulties in attracting private investment.
The Obama administrations stimulus bill of 2009 played a major role in turning the Californian desert into a sea of solar panels, but the role of the state shouldn't go unnoticed. Alongside tax breaks, Californian rate payers will be paying more for their electricity for the two decades. The increase is part of a long term plan to ensure that the solar industry can produce cheaper, cleaner and green electricity for generations to come.
In a progressive thinking state like California long term environmental sustainability far outweighs the short term price rise of electricity. let's hope that mentality catches on. It's fair to say that the American public are still a little skeptical regarding solar energy. The issue still has the ability to polarize, and it's fair to say that the divide in opinion follows partisan lines. Those in favor tend to be Democratic leaning, and those who still need convincing tend to be Republicans. As with anything, the immediate cost puts people off.
The vast majority of Americans still want lower energy bills, which is unfortunate as the long term benefits are there for all to see. In states where the sun doesn't shine as much wind power could work in a similar way.