Solar energy is following the same path to commercialization as other traditional energy sources spurred by federal incentives, according to a new study from the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The study, which was funded by a grant from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), also estimates that the U.S. solar sector could employ hundreds of thousands of Americans by the end of the decade.Â
Like oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear and all other traditional energy sources, solar has received support from the federal government to promote its usage. Diffusion of solar energy technology in the energy markets is very similar to the paths that many American industries have traveled to become mainstream, the report adds. Unlike more mature technologies, however, that continue to receive subsidies, solar energy is currently in a very early phase of its growth trajectory.Â
‘When it comes to government investment in new and emerging energy sources, solar is not unique,’ says Tom Kimbis, vice president of strategy and external affairs for SEIA. ‘The U.S. has a long history of incentivizing all sources of energy because access to reliable power is the lifeblood of economic development.’
According to the report, every significant energy resource deployed in the U.S. today has had approximately 30 years of innovation and early adoption before beginning rapid growth that brought about mainstream adoption.Â
The report also notes that solar energy has yielded significant public benefits in exchange for federal support. Earlier federal energy policy has helped maintain competition, provide for national security, promote economic development, meet public health and environmental quality standards and increase energy security.Â Â
Additionally, solar energy can decrease the impact of supply disruptions and price volatility of other sources of energy. Solar power is also the most efficient during periods of high demand, providing lower-cost peak power rates for consumers, the report adds.
The full report is available here.