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Solar Energy: An Investment in Our Future

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Solar Energy: An Investment in Our Future
By: Congressman Lamar Smith

August 12, 2005

As a member of the House Science Committee, I have long supported the research and development of alternative sources of energy.

Our primary source of clean, abundant energy is the sun. In fact, it sends enough solar radiation to the surface of the Earth to supply the energy needs of the world thousands of times over. It provides far more energy than anything humankind has devised.

Solar energy is a long-term, environmentally-friendly alternative to the world's limited energy sources. Not only does it reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but it also reduces our reliance on other nonrenewable energy sources, like coal. Solar energy is renewable and reliable.

Various technologies are readily available to harness the sun's power and turn it into useful forms of energy. They include the ability to convert solar power into forms of thermal energy that can heat homes, run industrial processes, drive turbines to generate electricity, and create electrical energy from sunlight to power homes and businesses.

To promote the use of these technologies, Congress recently approved the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That legislation contains tax incentive provisions I advocated that encourage Americans to install solar energy systems.

For those who invest in solar energy, the bill provides a tax credit equaling 30 percent of the value of the expenditure of the system for the given year. It also includes the same 30 percent credit for those who invest in solar water heaters for their homes. This will help offset the costs of installing solar energy collecting and power generating devices.

While investment in solar energy will help reduce pollution and relieve pressure on nonrenewable energy supplies, it also serves to strengthen our national security.

Each year, our nation becomes more dependent on imported oil from unstable regions of the world. If the nation increases the use of domestic renewable energy resources, we can then decrease our reliance on foreign energy sources.

Less dependence on foreign oil also will help our economy because a decrease in demand reduces energy prices. This lowers both the price we pay at the gas pump and on our electricity bills. In addition, when we invest in solar energy, we create new jobs for those who manufacture and install solar energy systems.

The development of solar and other renewable energy sources is an investment in our future. It will save our natural resources, decrease pollution, improve national security, and help the economy. To find more information on the benefits of solar energy, visit the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy on the web at

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