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The Obama Factor: What his administration may spell out for solar energy

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Updated 01/25/2009

We have a new president.  What’s that going to mean for the solar industry? Time will tell, but all signs point to “awesome.”

For starters, the skids were greased before inauguration day. The surprising extension of the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy appended to the financial bailout bill was slated to disappear, but instead was extended eight years. Moreover, the $2000 cap for residential solar installations was removed.

This is a long enough runway for national renewable energy companies to build infrastructure around. However, in the short term there’s not a lot of hunger for tax breaks. Groups like votesolar.org are pushing to make the ITC refundable so more people can use it now. Banks who provide tax equity solutions for big solar projects have turned the faucet off.

The Obama stimulus package earmarks $30B for upgrading grid infrastructure.  There are a lot of solar farm possibilities that don’t currently make sense because our medieval grid can’t get that energy to where it needs to go. Texas has taken the infrastructure lead, other states need to start planning for enhanced transmission lines.

Obama might also enact cap and trade legislation by the end of the year. Solar would be a way for companies to avoid penalties, increasing their already compelling incentives to solar up their buildings.  Solar in California will likely grow because of California’s AB32 (which caps emissions from power stations, industry and oil refineries starting in 2012) and there is a good chance a cap-and-trade system under Obama could be modeled after AB32.

New renewable portfolio standards (RPS) could also put a lot of pressure on states and municipalities to get their renewable programs in gear. RPS require local energy providers to derive a certain amount of their energy from renewable sources. States like Pennsylvania, California, Virgina, Colorado, and Oregon have very progressive standards. Others may be required to jump on board under this administration.

Obama will create a tide that lifts all ships in renewable energy, but I will be interested to see the attention that distributed solar gets comparatively. Ultimately though, he needs pressure from below to see to it that progressive legislation sees the desks of all legislators. Not just liberal democrats who see few oil lobby dollars.

Last modified: January 25, 2009

8 thoughts on “The Obama Factor: What his administration may spell out for solar energy

  1. Avatar for Solar Power Solar Power says:

    Jean-Luc Picard, do you know anything else about this solar energy in SA?

    How much does solar power cost?

  2. Avatar for Elaine Elaine says:

    In a Poland community, being a small town with very little space, last year they put solar panels on their masoleums in their cemetery. Where there’s a will there’s a way!!! Don’t ever give up on a wonderful idea!

  3. Avatar for Night Owl Night Owl says:

    The article above should say the $2,000 cap was lifted ONLY on Solar PV.
    The $2,000 cap is still in place for solar hot water, and there is NO CREDIT for residential solar space heating!

  4. Avatar for David van Greuningen David van Greuningen says:

    Solar Power, Inc. is the only provider out there with a stated mission to increase access to solar energy and the new Peaq product will finally make shade shade structures affordable. Making clean energy in parking lots for the same price as rooftop systems is just brilliant.

  5. Avatar for Emiliano Jordan Emiliano Jordan says:

    I’ve never understood that so much space is wasted in commercial and apartment parking lots. The covered parking rows could easily be mini solar plants for the business.

  6. Avatar for Dan Dan says:

    As I read the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, there is only 4.5 billion specifically allocated for rebuilding/upgrading the electric grid. What might I be missing? (The philly.com link is no longer good)

  7. Avatar for GreenMan GreenMan says:

    What are peoples’ perception of Solar Power, Inc? It seems to building out and recently published a new product called Peaq that would turn parking lots into structures topped with PV cells under which electric cars could plug in and in general collect electricity for the store, business, etc. whose parking lot it is.

  8. Avatar for Jean-Luc Picard Jean-Luc Picard says:

    Has anyone else seen the super advancement of solar energy from south Africa, I understand it will simply replace all current energy panels and make them obsolete. They are powerful.

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