Editorial: ‘Dereliction of Duty’ by Public Officials Who Fight Solar

first_imgEditorial: ‘Dereliction of Duty’ by Public Officials Who Fight Solar FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享George Ochenski in the Missoulian (Montana):From all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, one would think the economies of western coal-producing states are on their death bed. But most of the fear-mongering, threats of imminent societal collapse and, of course, demonizing the environmentalists and/or President Obama for coal’s collapse are coming from the coal industry and its political puppets. Then there’s the other side of the coin – in which the latest data shows renewable energy such as solar and wind are now not only outpacing coal jobs, but continuing to create an expanding base of new jobs.In its newly released Solar Jobs Census, the Solar Foundation reports that the solar industry added jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy, growing 20 percent for the third straight year with another 35,052 jobs last year. With a total of an estimated 208,859 jobs, solar now surpasses those employed in the coal industry.Those jobs include project development, sales and distribution, but the greatest growth sector was in installation which, in and of itself, employed a whopping 77 percent more than the coal industry. It’s equally important to remember that 83 percent of the jobs were newly created, with installation accounting for 65 percent of that new job creation.The upshot is that the solar industry alone added two gigawatts of energy to the grid, coming in third behind natural gas and wind. A gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts and depending on where in the country it’s used will power between 750,000 and a million homes.To put that in perspective, Colstrip 1 and 2, the 40-year-old coal-fired generating plants most likely to be shut down as the nation and region move away from coal power, produce 358 and 307 megawatts respectively, barely a third of solar industry’s output. Moreover, unlike the hundreds of millions of dollars it has been estimated will be required to clean up Colstrip’s toxic ash ponds and the already significant groundwater pollution they have caused, there’s not likely to be any huge pollution clean-up costs associated with new solar energy production.Moreover, as the world and nation decry the latest terrorist attacks in Brussels, the security of centralized generation and the national electrical grid increasingly comes into question. And on this count, there is no comparison between the long-term security of diversified local distributed power compared to the exceedingly complex and vulnerable national grid.While it is true that most rooftop solar installations will not supply all the power a home needs all the time, it’s also true that homeowners are highly unlikely to find a terrorist on their roof trying to blow up their solar panels. Hence, as solar steps up, our nation becomes more, not less, secure in its electrical energy supplies.Then there’s the added benefit of “home-grown” solar power production in raising energy consumption awareness. Those with rooftop solar panels are very much aware of how much energy they produce and, in many cases, will seek far greater energy conservation efforts than simply plugging into the grid. It’s not just cost benefits, either, but the satisfaction and security of energy self-sufficiency and what clean and sustainable power means to future generations.While financial advisors increasingly warn against investing in coal mining or generation, the latest projections on the growing solar sector estimate that solar may eventually produce a whopping 38 percent of the nation’s electrical energy supply. In other words, solar is growing and, given that the price of solar panels continues to decline, is likely to become even more affordable and popular in the future.As those of us in the Western states realize, we have a lot of sun and wind, which is why the West is now leading the nation in transitioning to clean energy, with solar rooftop panels being routinely installed on new homes rather than as an afterthought. And that says nothing about the new industrial-scale solar installations currently being sited on relatively small parcels of private lands that feed into the traditional grid.Given this good news and undeniable trend, with all its ancillary benefits, it’s puzzling why so many politicians in Montana and the West continue to hang on to the polluting past of coal power. Instead of lamenting coal’s continuing and unavoidable demise, they would serve their constituents far better by embracing the future of clean distributed solar energy and using their powerful positions to remove barriers, provide incentives and ensure its continued expansion. To do less is simply a dereliction of duty.New solar jobs far outpace coallast_img

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