Subcommittee Works to Advance Solar Energy Technologies
(Washington, DC) The House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment today explored means to advance solar energy research and technologies. The Subcommittee addressed the topic in the context of pending legislation, authored by Subcommittee Vice-Chair Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), which will soon be introduced to establish several important research, education and training programs to facilitate the adoption of such technologies.
“As we have all heard in our Committee hearings on the IPCC reports, global warming is expected to have dramatic effects on our nation, especially in the West,” said Rep. Giffords. “Achieving ‘clean’ energy independence is truly the Apollo mission of our generation. Solar energy offers one of the best solutions to the challenges before us. It has tremendous potential across the U.S., especially in regions like Southern Arizona, where we have over 300 days of sunshine every year.”
“Solar energy is an important piece in Congress’ overall efforts to craft a responsible path forward for our nation’s energy future,” added Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “Rep. Giffords has been a leader on the Committee, and I thank her for authoring a bill to help make solar energy technologies more efficient and cost-effective.”
Rep. Giffords expects to soon introduce “The Solar Energy Research and Advancement Act of 2007” to address issues in solar research, education, and training not covered by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. These include a research and development program on thermal energy storage technologies for concentrating solar power, a study to determine the necessary steps to integrate concentrating solar power plants with the regional and national electric grid, a study to reduce the amount of water consumed by concentrating solar power systems, and a program to ensure that a sufficient number of people are properly trained to install and maintain solar energy equipment, and the establishment of a “solar check-off program”, similar to such programs for the beef and dairy industries, which pools funds from the private sector for the research and promotion of the solar power industry as a whole.
“As we all know, solar energy is a non-partisan issue. The sun beats down on Democrats, Republicans and Independents with equal intensity, and we can all benefit by harnessing the power of the sun,” continued Rep. Giffords. “Investing in solar energy stimulates business development, creates new jobs, helps protect our environment, and promotes energy independence. My legislation will move solar energy forward by targeting some of the gaps that several experts have identified in our national solar energy strategy.”
Expert witnesses before the Committee today addressed Members concerns and questions on a range of solar power related issues, including whether thermal energy storage technology is important to the viability of concentrating solar power; and whether increased research and development on thermal storage – as will be proposed in the Solar Energy Research and Advancement Act – significantly accelerates the advancement of this technology.
“Certainly a dedicated research and development program on thermal storage could significantly accelerate the use of this promising technology,” said Herbert T. Hayden, Solar Technology Coordinator for Arizona Public Service Company in Phoenix. “We believe CSP has a significant potential to provide large amounts of renewable energy to the U.S. and that a federal study on transmission for large scale CSP would be beneficial and appropriate.”
A 2006 report by the Western Governors’ Association assessed the overall near-term potential for concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity in the American Southwest, taking into account areas of high solar ray intensity, near-level land, non-sensitivity to CSP use, and proximity to transmission. The resulting set of potential plant sites totaled 200 GW of potential power production. To put this in perspective, the electric generating capacity of the entire United States is currently about 1,000 GW. Some significant challenges remain to widespread implementation of CSP, however.
For more information, including witness testimony, from today’s hearing click here.