Solar energy may well he developed in America -more because of what is going on outside of Washington than by what Schlesinger’s Department of Energy (DOE) or the Congress is doing.
Despite the millions of dollars which the DOE is spending on solar energy development, the sun remains a low priority compared with nuclear energy. Moreover, the nuclear power hawks in charge of the Department of Energy are making sure that federal funds for solar go to large corporations with little commitment to solar — if they are not actually part of the nuclear industry. But it is small businesses around the country and individual do-it-yourself homeowners that are making and installing solar collectors. Inventors and researchers, often working with little resources are advancing the design and application of solar energy for heating, cooling and electricity. Some far-sighted builders are installing solar collectors on several new housing projects, schools and office buildings.
STATE GOVERNMENTS have moved to provide tax benefits to property owners investing in solar equipment. California Governor Jerry Bown, in his characteristically cautious manner, is forging a pro-solar strategy designed to make California the leader in solar industries and use. lie is shrewd enough to observe the broad constituency beginning to form around harnessing the sun, the wind, and biomass. He also senses the Carter Administration’s faltering on solar and embroilment in controversy over fossil fuels, taxes and subsidies.
Several citizen groups in California are urging Brown to support the creation of a Public Solar Energy Authority to provide loans and technical assistance for homeowners, small businesses and plants to go solar. They cite a California State Energy Commission report that describes solar space and water heating as “commercially feasible” now. Their argument is that such an authority will lead to more legitimated economic growth, more jobs and less inflation.
In emphasizing decentralized solar units, they hope to avoid the monopolization of solar in centralized systems controlled by California’s giant utilities. (Copies of the proposal eon be obtained from the Calif. Public Policy Center, Room 224, 304 South Broadway, Los Angeles, Calif. 90013.)
IF EVER A technology could spring from the grass roots, it is solar power in all its manifestations. Abundant, environmentally attractive and under the control of individuals and neighborhoods, solar could help significantly in deconcentrating the energy monopolies and their political power by gradually displacing them.
Denis Hayes, the man behind “Earth Day” in 1970, is new leading a broad coalition planning for “Sun Day” on May 3, 197S. It is likely to be a remarkably effective method of communicating to tens of millions of people here and abroad that solar energy is ready for development and not a 21st century pie-in-the-sky. Exhibits, fairs, teach-ins, lectures and demonstrations will be carefully prepared.
The “Sun Day” committee wants to tell you what its plans are for that spring day so that you can become involved. If you are interested, write to Solar Action, 1028 Connecticut Ave. N. W., Room 1100, Wash., D.C. 20036, for descriptive materials.