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Expanding Solar Heating, Cooling Would Bolster U.S. Economy

With no end in sight to the federal government shutdown – and worries mounting by the minute about its impact on the U.S. economy – what can the private sector do to help spur job creation and economic growth in the future?  

Here’s one good idea: The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has just released a comprehensive new report outlining ways to create 50,250 new American jobs and save more than $61 billion in future energy costs by expanding the use of innovative and cost-effective solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems across the nation.

Prepared by BEAM Engineering, a Boston-based consulting firm which focuses on energy system design and implementation, this new, first-of-its-kind report provides a roadmap for dramatically increasing SHC capacity in the U.S. from 9 gigawatts (GW) thermal to 300 GW thermal by 2050 through the installation of 100 million new SHC solar panels nationwide.  Thermal energy is typically measured in terms of British Thermal Units (BTUs) but can also be converted to watts.

Today, approximately 44 percent of American energy consumption is attributable to heating and cooling.  According to projections by BEAM Engineering, ramping up the installation of SHC systems across America would allow the U.S. to generate nearly 8 percent of its total heating and cooling needs through clean, affordable solar energy.  SHC is the most efficient renewable technology for generating thermal heat and costs are as low as 6 cents per kilowatt (kWh) hour.

Part of our challenge is to do a better job of educating policymakers – at both the state and federal level – about the enormous benefits SHC provides to American consumers and businesses, as well as to the U.S. economy.  If we’re successful, the payoff will be enormous in terms of future job creation and energy savings.

Another big advantage of SHC, according to the report, is the positive impact it has on the environment.  Expanding SHC can help to displace an estimated 226 million tons of carbon emissions annually.  That’s the equivalent of taking 47 million passenger cars off the road!

In addition to creating tens of thousands of new jobs and dramatically reducing electricity costs, BEAM Engineering says the SHC roadmap provides a wealth of other advantages, including:

  • Saving $19.1 billion to homeowners, businesses, schools and government by deferring the need for electric and natural gas infrastructure expansion and repairs
  • Raising $2.1 billion annually in increased federal tax revenue through job creation and economic growth
  • Increasing America’s annual manufacturing GDP by $1.4 billion

This is a common sense plan that’s good for America.  Moving forward, if policymakers want to create new jobs, spur economic development and reduce our nation’s dangerous dependence on foreign energy sources, we need sustained investments in technologies like solar heating and cooling – not hot and cold public policies.

Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO

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