Report: Nearly 90% of U.S. public strongly supports solar

Report: Nearly 90% of U.S. public strongly supports solarThe 2011 SCHOTT Solar Barometer found that nine out of 10 people in the U.S are in support of developing and using more solar in the country. The poll, now in its fourth year, was conducted for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and SCHOTT Solar by Kelton Research.

Support for solar among U.S. residents has been high throughout the history of the poll, according to SEIA President Rhone Resch. For the fourth consecutive year, the survey found that 9 out of 10 Americans think it’s important to use and develop solar power.

“If you think about it, that make solar energy more popular than Thanksgiving turkey dinner,” he said during a teleconference announcing the results.

“We found that 89 percent of Americans believe it's important for this country to develop and use solar power. It rates much higher than a lot of other energy sources folks would choose to support it if they were in charge of energy policy,” said Kelton Director Rachel Bonsignore.

Support for solar was strong regardless of respondents’ political affiliations.

“With 90 percent of Independents, 80 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats agreeing that it is important for the U.S. to develop and use solar power,” Resch said.

In addition, U.S. citizens showed strong support for federal investments in solar, despite the recent Solyndra debacle.

“Eighty-two percent support federal incentives for the solar industry similar to those that traditional sources of energy like oil, natural gas and coal have received for decades,” Resch said.

That includes nearly three-quarters of Republicans, 82 percent of Independents and 87 percent of Democrats.

During the teleconference, Tom Hecht, SCHOTT Solar’s U.S. president of sales and marketing, pointed out that the Solyndra loan guarantee has taken away from the good that the program has done.

“I think it's also important to educate the public that the loan guarantee program also made a number of other project-based loans, and those project-based loans will support several gigawatts of solar over the next few years at a utility scale level,” he said. “There's been numerous successes under the loan-guarantee space. And that's not getting that much attention.”

SEIA will spend much of the rest of the year supporting the solar incentive programs offered by the federal government, particularly the 1603 Treasury Grant program, which has helped spur development for solar throughout the U.S.

“The 1603 programs along with the underlying 33 percent tax credit is hands down one of the most successful policies ever enacted to deploy renewable energy,” Resch said. “An expiration of the 1603 program on Dec. 31 would essentially amount to a massive tax increase on the thousands of small businesses that are creating jobs in the solar industry right now.”

The poll also found that 14 percent of U.S. residents are interested in adopting solar on their homes.

“This is a decent amount, but it shows there's a lot of potential for more Americans to get on board with solar,” Bonsignore said.

She added that cost was the biggest consideration for homeowners, more so than reliability and aesthetics.