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One in four Americans would consider solar

One in four Americans would consider solar

Posting in Energy

Maybe it's the summer solstice effect, but what a week it's been for solar news, capped by a survey showing that a quarter of Americans would go for photovoltaics. If only they had their facts right.

Revelers had an extra reason to celebrate the solstice at Stonehenge on Tuesday, even if they weren’t aware of it: it’s been a heck of week for bright developments in the solar industry.

The latest encouraging news comes from the U.S., where a consumer survey shows that one out of four Americans would consider installing photovoltaic panels on their homes.

The survey was commissioned by Applied Materials Inc., which, as a supplier of manufacturing equipment to the solar industry has an interest in seeing solar catch on. Nevertheless, I take the findings at face value.

Twenty seven percent of Yanks questioned by the Opinion Research Corp. said they would consider installing photovoltaics. A majority noted that they would be particularly keen to do so if they received government assistance to offset the cost, or if the solar panels increased the value of their home.

About half of them said that schemes allowing them to sell electricity to the grid would also tilt them towards installation. Such plans, commonly called “feed-in tariffs”, have helped Germany - an unlikely country weather wise -  to become the world’s leading producer of solar electricity.

Take the word of these Americans with a grain of salt though, because the survey also revealed that they weren’t entirely clued into solar facts.

“One-fifth (21 percent) of Americans believe the U.S. is the solar energy leader, when in fact Germany, Spain, Japan and Italy use more solar power than the U.S and China is by far the global leader in solar manufacturing,” the survey noted. More than half of them also incorrectly stated that solar contributes to over 5 percent of U.S. energy consumption. The actual number is probably less than 1 percent.

Well, they can be forgiven. But regular readers of SmartPlanet would have known those solar tidbits. They’ll also know, as we have reported, that solstice week has overflowed with signs that solar electricity is making headway.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $1.4 billion loan for an industrial solar rooftop project. On Wednesday, San Francisco research firm CleanPath launched an $800 million solar fund. And separate reports from Ernst & Young and IHS iSuppli point to a free fall in solar panel prices.

The industry has a long way to go, but perhaps it can pause for a little celebration. So, go on. Put some flowers in your hair, find a big stone, and dance around it this weekend.

Photo: CBSnews

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure