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Defense Department Leads the Way

April 8, 2015 - As petro-profit continues its downward spiral, investors are seeking out The Next Big Thing.  More and more of them say the future belongs to solar energy.  Companies like Tesla, Google, and Apple are investing in solar.  In fact, Tesla will soon announce the release of a "home battery" that will help store power generated by rooftop solar panels.  While there's a part of me that questions how well solar will work in a warming world, where warm air that holds more moisture will create more thunderstorms, I'm pleased that Americans are finally looking beyond fossil fuel.

Oddly enough, the word "Americans" now includes American conservatives.  Though they may not always feel free to spell out their support, they come pretty close in places like Florida, where Floridians for Solar Choice welcomes members from both the tea party and the Christian Coalition, as well as liberals, environmentalists and retailers.  More and more of us seem to be able to read the writing on the wall: fossil fuels' days are numbered.  This realization could go a long way in creating the political will necessary in order to do what must be done.

Speaking of investment, the numbers are out, and they tell a pretty convincing story: $270 billion was invested in renewable energy in 2014, 20% more than in 2013.  With time being of the essence, that rate of increase needs to continue to grow.  President Obama is aware of the need for very fast growth in the solar industry, and is making the most of turning this need into an opportunity.  He recently announced the inauguration of the "Solar Ready Vets" initiative.  With jobs in the solar industry being added at ten times the pace of the rest of the economy, the timing couldn't be better.  Veterans will be trained at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, along with nine other bases around the country.  The President's goal is to have 75,000  workers trained by 2020.  A significant number of them will be veterans.

Meantime, those residents of Florida I mentioned are rejoicing, and with good cause.  Duke Energy Florida has announced a major solar power project, which home- and business owners have clamored for.  Over the next ten years, Duke will build 500 megawatts of solar power, twice the state's current capacity.  Construction is slated to begin by the end of this year.  Improved energy storage technology  (i.e., batteries) contributed to Duke's decision.

Because Florida ("the Sunshine State") hasn't given much thought at all to solar power until recently, it has fallen behind other Southern states like North Carolina and Georgia.  New Jersey is also regarded as a leader in the utilization of energy from the sun.  Now that someone has finally picked up the ball, the game may soon include Gulf Power, the state's smallest investor-owned utility.  They have proposed building 120 megawatts of utility-scale power at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Holley Field in Navarre, and Saufley Field in Pensacola.  This proposal is part of a joint effort among Gulf Power, the Navy, the Air Force and Heliosage, the project's developer.  The U.S. Dept. of Defense has a goal of of 25 percent renewable energy at all its facilities by the year 2025.

We're a day late and a dollar short, but at least we're in the game.



Thanks to the Tampa Bay Times, the St. George News, and New York Magazine.

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