From Green Right Now Reports
Nearly 90 percent of Americans say it is important to develop solar power in the United States, according to a survey about American attitudes toward solar power released today.
Americans of all political affiliations also strongly or “somewhat strongly” support continuing federal subsidies for solar power, according to the fourth annual 2011 Solar Barometer Survey conducted by Kelton Research and commissioned by Schott Solar and the Solar Energy Industry Association.
SEIA hopes the results will persuade U.S. lawmakers, on the eve of an investigation into the bankruptcy of solar maker Solyndra, not to let that one failure tarnish the entire industry. The Solyndra collapse has made news for weeks because the company had received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy and there are questions about how the Silicon Valley company managed its money.
SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch has repeatedly assured audiences that Solyndra’s failure is not indicative of the American solar industry, which he reports grew by about 69 percent over the last year, thanks in part to government incentives and to an increase in solar manufacturing in the U.S.. The nation, along with China, is projected to be the biggest or second biggest market for solar companies over the next few years.
The results of Tuesday’s survey demonstrate that Americans want to stay in the solar power business, both as producers and consumers, Resch said.
“This kind of data really shows politicians that solar is not only a good choice for power, but also politically,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch in a teleconference about the poll.
“The key thing I would emphasize is that while the Solyndra story is entertaining to a lot of people, I think it’s important to educate the public that the (DOE) loan program made a number of project-based loans that will produce gigawatts of power,” said Tom Hecht, vice president of sales and marketing for Schott Solar. “…The general public supports solar, and companies and residences are getting strong returns.”
Here are key questions, and answers from the survey, which polled 1,000 Americans representative of the nation as a whole, in late September and early October:
Question 1: If you were in charge of U.S. energy policy and could choose to provide financial support in one of the following energy sources during your term in office, which would you choose?
- Thirty-nine percent chose solar, compared to 21 percent for natural gas, 12 percent for wind, 9 percent for nuclear and 3 percent for coal. Among Independents, solar is more than twice as popular as any other energy source (43 percent to 20 percent for natural gas).
- Among Independents, solar is more than twice as popular as any other energy source (43 percent to 20 percent for natural gas).
Question 2: How important do you think it is for the U.S. to develop and use solar power?
- Nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) think it is “extremely important” or “somewhat important.”
- Eighty percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Independents, and 94 percent of Democrats agree with this statement.
Question 3: How important do you think it is for the federal government to support U.S. solar manufacturing right now?
- Eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) think it is “extremely important” or “somewhat important.”
- A majority of Independent voters (51 percent) think it is “extremely important.”
Question 4: Would you be more, less or about as likely to buy a product that you knew was made using solar energy?
- A majority of Americans (51 percent) would be more likely to buy products produced with solar energy.
- Sixty-one percent of consumers in the key age demographic of 18 to 44 years old would be more likely.
Question 5: Which of the following best describes the biggest concern you would have with choosing solar energy?
- Cost was the most common concern (48 percent), followed by reliability (25 percent), uncertainty about the benefits (9 percent) and aesthetics (3 percent).
Question 6: The federal government currently gives subsidies, such as federal tax credits and grants, to traditional sources of energy, such as oil, natural gas and coal. How likely would you be to support similar subsidies for solar energy?
- More than eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) would be “extremely likely” or “somewhat likely” to support federal investments in solar. Seventy-two percent of Republicans support federal investments, as well as 87 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Independents.
- Seventy-one percent of Republicans support federal incentives, as well as 82 percent of Independents, and 87 percent of Democrats.