On October 22nd, the House passed H.R. 3585, Solar Technology Roadmap Act, to strengthen the American solar technology industry through a coordinated research and development program and public-private partnerships. This bipartisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, requires the Secretary to select a group of experts from industry, academia, and government researchers to develop a long-term roadmap to guide solar energy research. The Roadmap Committee, at least one-third of which must come from the private sector, would identify the research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities needed to improve the performance and reliability of solar technologies, decrease cost, and reduce water use. The Committee's recommendations would direct a growing percentage of federal solar RD&D funding over time.
Establishing a research roadmap and prioritizing federal funding for solar energy research will help commercialize new solar technologies and create new public-private partnerships to make this clean, renewable energy source more affordable and accessible for all Americans.
Harnessing the power of the sun offers a tremendous opportunity for America, with the potential to help create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs that can't be shipped overseas. It will also help us address some of the largest challenges we face, reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and cutting green house gas emissions.
The U.S. has some of the best solar resources of any industrialized nation in the world. Yet while America is currently a leader in solar technology development, other countries like Spain, Germany and China are devoting much more effort and attention to this field, putting U.S. competitiveness in this industry in jeopardy.
H.R. 3585 has thus far been officially endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), BP, IBM, Intel and National Semiconductor.
Roadmap for Solar Research and Development: H.R. 3585 establishes a comprehensive roadmapping process for solar technology research, development, and demonstration activities conducted by the federal government in partnership with the private sector. The Secretary of Energy is also directed to award grants to carry out these programs on a merit-reviewed basis, and specifically to provide awards to industry-led consortia for RD&D in solar manufacturing. The roadmap provision is modeled on the successful National (now International) Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, which has been instrumental in helping semiconductor technology advance rapidly over the past two decades.
Roadmap Committee Make Up: The Secretary must appoint a Solar Technology Roadmap Committee, comprised of at least 11 members, within four months of enactment of the Act. At least one-third but not more than half of the members of the Committee must come from the solar industry. The Secretary must also appoint a Committee chair, who shall not be a federal employee.
Timeline and Mandate of Committee: H.R. 3585 requires that the Committee create a Solar Technology Roadmap within eighteen months of enactment of the Act. The Roadmap will present the best current estimate of the near-term (up to two years), mid-term (up to seven years), and long-term (up to 15 years) RD&D needs in solar technology. It must also provide direct guidance for solar technology RD&D activities supported by the federal government. The bill requires that 30% of DOE solar RD&D funding in 2012 is pursuant to the recommendations of the Roadmap, ramping up to 75% in 2015. The Committee must update the Roadmap annually as needed, and comprehensively review and revise it every three years.
Photovoltaic Provisions: The Solar Technology Roadmap Act authorizes DOE to conduct at least 10 photovoltaic demonstration projects ranging from one-to-three megawatts in size and three-to-five solar projects greater than 30 megawatts in size. DOE is also required to study the performance of photovoltaic installations and identify opportunities to improve the energy productivity of these systems. In addition, DOE must establish a program of RD&D related to the reuse, recycling, and safe disposal of photovoltaic devices.
Dedicated Funding for Solar Research and Development: The bill authorizes $350 million for DOE to carry out these activities in FY 2011, rising to $550 million in FY 2015.