February 05, 2010

Gillibrand Introduces Solar Energy Legislation

New York Already Home To Nearly 75,000 Jobs Associated With Solar Manufacturing And Installation

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation this week to encourage the installation of 10 million solar systems on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade. According the New York State Department of Labor report from 2009, New York has nearly 75,000 jobs associated with solar manufacturing and installation in more than 7,000 New York companies.  Based on average wages, New York’s solar industry payroll is approximately $4.8 billion dollars.   

“Developing new, clean, homegrown sources of energy is a vital part of our economic recovery,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This legislation would make solar panel installation more accessible and affordable for New Yorkers – helping to cut emissions, improve our environment, lower our energy bills, and create good-paying green jobs right here at home."

The 10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act wouldprovide consumers and businesses with rebates of $3 per watt for systems up to 4 megawatts.  This would help consumers overcome a key barrier to expanded solar deployment.  Solar energy requires significant upfront expenditures for systems that are otherwise cost-effective over time.  This rebate program would complement existing federal and state incentives. 

In order to apply consumers would need to meet certain energy efficiency requirements.  The rebates could cover up to half of the installed cost to the consumer, after all other applicable incentives are applied.  If fully funded over a ten year period, this legislation could deploy up to 30 gigawatts of solar PV, and create 750,000 jobs.

President Obama's budget for next year requested $2.4 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The requested 5 percent boost overall included a 22 percent increase for solar power.

A recent report shows that solar power could help make every state more energy independent if solar units were installed on available rooftop space, because every state can meet 10 percent or more of its electricity needs just through rooftop solar. Moreover, because solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than other energy sources. Senator Gillibrand’s bill could create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next ten years in the solar industry.  According to a study by the University of California at Berkley, solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy technology – 33 jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance. 

This measure is patterned after successful state programs promoting solar energy in New Jersey and California, where energy prices have fallen as the number of solar units increased.