June 30, 2008

Tax Credit Tango

Bill Georgevich

Hear the 1 minute show:

The senate last week blocked a vote on the extension of renewable energy tax credits, which expire December 31. These tax incentives make it possible for thousands of homeowners to install solar panels & has inspired big investment in dozens of clean energy power plants. But if Congress fails to extend the credits, most of theses renewable power projects are in danger of being abandoned.

When I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico 30 years ago, new home construction was all on fire about passive solar heating, solar waters heaters, & “living off the grid” with batteries & Photovoltaic solar electric panels -- all in response to the first “energy crisis”.

Everywhere there were tromb wall homes that cooled homes during the day & warmed them with stored heat at night. Every house had a solar water heater. My house had a solar water heater with a 90 gallon tank. I had so much hot water from the sun, that even if the daytime temperature was below freezing, I could take a hot bath in my enormous soaking tub. All this was possible because of the federal tax credits that gave home builders the incentive to build renewable.

Now speculators have driven up oil prices to frightening levels again in 2008 & despite broad bipartisan support for renewable energy tax credits, Democrats and Republicans are arguing about how to finance them. There are currently 22 major solar power plants in various stages of planning around the country, but all have been implemented on the assumption Congress would extend the renewable energy tax incentives.

The discontinuation of these tax credits will "result in the loss of billions of dollars in new investments in solar," says Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. How can it be that we can’t even keep the old programs that promote renewable energy when we should be implementing additional new ones? If you as outraged as we are, here is what you can do:

Learn about the Energy Independence and Tax Relief Act of 2008, Senate bill #S.3125.

ell others about it and to take action by calling or emailing your Congressional Representative. Ask them to extend the renewable energy tax credit. You can find your Congressperson's contact information here. You can also reach the office of your Representative and Senator through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121.


June 29, 2008

The Arizona Desert Goes Green

Melanie Pahlmann reporting

Hear the 1 minute show:

The Arizona desert is one of the hottest and sunniest places on earth, so it was only a matter of time before solar energy technology would make its way there.

In early 2009, a Spanish solar power company will break ground outside the little town of Gila Bend, southwest of Phoenix, to build what will be the world's largest solar power plant. At maximum capacity, the Solana Power Plant will supply at least 70,000 households.

Abengoa Solar, which has built plants in Spain, northern Africa and other parts of the U.S. – will own and operate the $1 billion plant. Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility, will pay Abengoa $4 billion over 30 years for the energy produced.

The deal has been forged, but there's one possible glitch: The plant hinges on an extension of the federal solar investment tax credit, due to expire at the end of this year. APS and Abengoa said they're confident that this won't derail the project. Perhaps they know something we don't. To date, we have no news on where Congress currently stands on the issue. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, is not feeling particularly positive about it, as he notes in an Op-Ed piece from April 30, 2008:

Few Americans know it, but for almost a year now, Congress has been bickering over whether and how to renew the investment tax credit to stimulate investment in solar energy and the production tax credit to encourage investment in wind energy. The bickering has been so poisonous that when Congress passed the 2007 energy bill last December, it failed to extend any stimulus for wind and solar energy production. Oil and gas kept all their credits, but those for wind and solar have been left to expire this December. I am not making this up. At a time when we should be throwing everything into clean power innovation, we are squabbling over pennies.

If you feel concerned, there is something you can do to help save the federal solar investment tax credit. Call or email your Representative and both Senators and ask them to urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep the ITC extension in the Energy Bill.

To locate your Representative and Senators' Washington phone number, go to this web address and type in your zip code:

You can also reach your Representative and Senators' offices through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121.

To learn more about the ITC, visit:
The Green Counsel Blog
Congress.org - details on Bill # S.3125

And here is a 4 minute video about the Solana Power Plant. Gives you a sense of its immense size. Click on this link to see the video:
Solana Power Plant video