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A ‘Moon Shot’ for Solar Energy
Joel Makower, 27 Feb 05

Joel Makower is a widely respected writer and consultant on issues of sustainable business, clean technology and green markets. His essays on environmental business and technology are a regular feature of Sustainability Sundays. Take it away, Joel:

For the better part of the past year, my colleagues and I at Clean Edge have been exploring the following question: What would an American “man on the moon” effort look like that could rapidly and dramatically transform solar energy into a truly cost-competitive, job-creating source of electricity? The project is the third in a series of research reports we’ve produced since 2002 for Co-op America’s Solar Catalyst Group.The fruits of that labor, called the Solar High-Impact National Energy (SHINE) Project, is a revenue-neutral, public-private partnership. SHINE will be released on Tuesday, March 1, but I thought I’d offer Worldchangers a sneak preview.Some excerpts from the introduction:

SHINE calls for an ambitious and aggressive, three-pronged initiative to make solar both cost-competitive and a significant part of America’s energy mix within 10 years. It emphasizes the positive benefits American-made solar can have on energy security, U.S. business growth, the creation of thousands of jobs across the nation, environmental and public health, and reducing stress on America’s electricity grid.

SHINE is centered on the uniquely American way of solving problems: by stimulating markets -- in this case, to the point where solar can take off and bring jobs, prosperity and security to America through private-sector initiative. It can address environmental problems such as climate change without resorting to regulations and treaties. Combined, SHINE’s three programs reduce the price of solar far faster than would take place under business as usual, thereby creating mass markets for solar far sooner than they would otherwise develop. By 2025, SHINE would reduce prices to as low as 80 cents per installed watt, compared to about $2.71 for the business-as-usual case -- a dramatic difference that would make solar cost-competitive with -- perhaps cheaper than -- fossil fuels and other more polluting energy sources.And, along the way, SHINE would ensure America’s participation in what is expected to be one of the fast-growing global industries of the next decade and beyond. It would reverse the loss of high-paying jobs already taking place in the U.S. renewable energy sector, which has seen companies and jobs depart American shores for Japan, Korea, China, Germany, and elsewhere. And by reclaiming leadership in this sector, the United States would enjoy the creation of up to 500,000 good-paying U.S. jobs -- jobs that cannot be exported overseas because they involve local installation and maintenance of solar systems on rooftops and in neighborhoods in every community.
The full (free) report can be downloaded on March 1 at and

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Good Luck persuading Bush and his cronies!

Posted by: Daniel Johnston on 27 Feb 05

Daniel, good point, but I bet that a lot of good could be done at the state level in the U.S., and other countries are much more receptive to these ideas (ask Germany).

Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 27 Feb 05

This is excellent - exactly what we need! It's the sort of thing we've been pushing for over at the "Alternative Energy Action Network" (click my name below). Great work Joel, and the folks at Clean Edge and the Solar Catalyst Group!

Posted by: Arthur Smith on 27 Feb 05

Sounds like you ahve alot in common with the Apollo Project.

Posted by: Tawn Kennedy on 28 Feb 05

Whoops, I mean the Apollo Alliance (see name link)

Posted by: Tawn Kennedy on 1 Mar 05

great article, thanks...

i was making enqiries about pv panelling my house in italy yesterday. long chat with the vendor, who was just back from trade fairs in spain and germany, where he'd done great business, as the governments in those countries had legislated that the energy companies have to pay money, not credits, for juice fed into the grid by citizens' panels.

right now in italy they will run your meter backwards when you provide more than you use, but no money. the pols are lobbied into submission and the law is crawling in a stymied circle.

good news: the same 3K rig i would have paid $40,000 for three years ago will now cost me 30% less, about E7000 per kilowatt.

bad news: the supply line from japan is lagging 6 months from order to delivery, because of the huge upsurge of orders since spain and germany changed their laws.

if the new law comes in it will take 5-6 years to amortize the costs; right now it's much more, though of course 'if' oil and gas continue to rise the ratios cound change significantly.

the government had a program called '10,000 rooves' repaying up to 70% of an individual's capital outlay, but that is in abeyance, and the chances of your rebate coming through were proportional to how little you asked for: if you asked the full 70%
you rarely got anything, whereas if you asked for 10% it was much more likely.

typical half-lottery, half who-you-know bullshit that unfortunately stains this beautiful country....

Posted by: Michael Dunkley on 3 Mar 05



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