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Solar Technology Roadmap Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Chairman, the bill includes authorization for $300 million to the Energy Department for programs that will establish demonstration grants for solar technology projects. What my amendment does is include a requirement that the Department use some of this money to evaluate the potential benefits of very large solar projects.

The amendment is prompted by a January 2008 article that appeared in Scientific American, part of their Big Ideas series. Folks out there who want to read the article, I think you could probably just Google ``Solar Grand Plan,'' Scientific American, January 2008, and you would see an excellent discussion by three scientists of the possibility that we could create in the Southwest a 3,000-gigawatt facility that delivers solar power to the Nation. It would produce enough solar power by 2050, according to these scientists, to meet 69 percent of our electricity needs and 35 percent of our overall energy needs.

The idea is that some 30,000 acres, or square miles, I am not sure which, but a large hunk of land in the Southwest would be covered by solar facilities. The energy would be collected during the day, distributed nationwide on an improved grid, a lot of that grid would probably be direct current, stored during the day underground in high pressure underground caverns, with the pressure released overnight in order to provide the power overnight.

One of the beauties of the suggestion is that it feeds back into the existing distribution facilities that we have, so we would not have to change, if we were using DC transmission, to DC power, but instead would continue using AC power in our existing facilities.

I don't know whether something like this will work, but if these scientists are right, the costs seem quite reasonable for the reward that we would realize. The energy is completely clean, it essentially frees us from dependence upon foreign sources of energy, and consequently meets both the security need and environmental need at the exact same time.

Big ideas like this require study and evaluation before they are put together in some sort of implementation project, and consequently we only contemplate in the amendment that there will be an evaluation of this kind of concept as opposed to actual demonstration projects.

The $300 million that has been given to the Energy Department for these demonstration projects, no doubt they are going to be smaller projects, much smaller projects, than something as large as this. What we contemplate is that there be an evaluation of whether or not a 100-gigawatt solar facility makes sense and should be supported somehow by the Federal Government.

The authors of this Scientific American article printed in January of 2008 estimated that the Federal investment to accomplish what in essence would free us altogether from foreign sources of energy, the estimate of the Federal investment over a 20-year period of time, would be $450 billion. Spread over a 20-year period of time, a $450 billion investment that would actually give us energy independence and an awful lot of clean energy seems to me to be something that we ought to be evaluating, and that is why I suggested the amendment.

With that, I request the adoption of my amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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