Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Winning Teams and Innovative Technologies from the 2005 Solar Decathlon

Wednesday, November 2, 2005 - 12:00am
Washington, D.C.

Opening Statement By Hon. Mike Honda

Madam Chairwoman, thank you for holding this hearing today on the Solar Decathlon.

Thanks to the witnesses for being here today.  It is especially nice to have the students with us.  You bring a different perspective to us than our usual witnesses do.

I’m the kind of person who drives a hybrid car and wants to keep the battery charged with a solar cell when I don’t drive it for a while.

But as a nation, we have not followed that same line of thinking.  The United States was once the leader in solar technologies.  The first solar cell that produced a useful amount of electricity was invented here.

But last year, only 11 percent of the photovoltaic generating capacity was manufactured here.  And our track record at installing solar generating capacity is equally poor.

By the end of 2004, the United States installed photovoltaic generating capacity was only about equal to what a standard coal-fired power plant produces, or approximately 0.04 percent of U.S. electricity production.

We have fallen behind other nations, such as Germany and Japan, which saw solar installation increase as a result of meaningful incentive programs.

But all is not lost.  A quick glance at a solar resource map shows that most of the United States has far greater potential for solar power than Germany, a nation that has succeeded in bringing solar along with the proper incentives.

This means that the United States has tremendous growth potential for solar energy.  My own state of California is taking the lead, with over 100 MW of installed grid capacity to date.

It has taken a commitment to get to this point, though, because a typical home photovoltaic system is not cheap to purchase and install.  If you do the math to figure out how much the electricity costs, it turns out that it is still higher than the typical retail cost for electricity.

That is why we need Federal and State tax incentives, rebates and loan guarantees to help consumers make the decision to adopt the technology.

To succeed, the cost of solar-produced electricity must be reduced.  Fortunately, as more cells are manufactured, the cost for photovoltaic modules has decreased 5-7 percent per year.

As we convince more consumers to make the choice to install these systems, the prices will continue to decline and the cost of power will eventually become comparable to other sources.

But we need to convince them to make that choice.  And to do so, we need to show them that solar power can work - even if it isn’t a brilliantly sunny day in the desert.  So I look forward to hearing about your experiences in this year’s Decathlon, which wasn’t like that.

Download the opening statement text.



1 - Richard Moorer
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Technology Development Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Rene
Download the Witness Testimony

2 - Robert Schubert
Professor and Team Faculty Advisor School of Architecture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University School of Architecture, Virginia Polytechnic Instit
Download the Witness Testimony

3 - Jeff Lyng
Graduate Student and Team Leader Buildings System Program, University of Colorado Buildings System Program, University of Colorado
Download the Witness Testimony

4 - Jonathan Knowles
Professor and Team Faculty Advisor Department of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design Department of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design
Download the Witness Testimony

5 - David Schieren
Graduate Student and Energy Team Leader Energy Management, New York Institute of Technology Energy Management, New York Institute of Technology
Download the Witness Testimony

Witnesses from the Energy Subcommittee hearing November 2, 2005

Link to Government Printing Office PDF file Link to text version Link to text version with speaker index
Serial 109-30
109th Congress