As a way to help bolster the U.S. economy, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released a comprehensive new report outlining ways to create 50,250 new American jobs and save more than $61 billion in future energy costs by expanding the use of innovative and cost-effective solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems across the nation.
Prepared by BEAM Engineering, a Boston-based consulting firm which focuses on energy system design and implementation, this report provides a roadmap for dramatically increasing SHC capacity in the U.S. from 9 gigawatts (GW) thermal to 300 GW thermal by 2050 through the installation of 100 million new SHC solar panels nationwide. Thermal energy is typically measured in terms of British Thermal Units (Btus) but can also be converted to watts.
Today, approximately 44 percent of American energy consumption is attributable to heating and cooling. According to projections by BEAM Engineering, ramping up the installation of SHC systems across America would allow the U.S. to generate nearly 8 percent of its total heating and cooling needs through clean, affordable solar energy. SHC is the most efficient renewable technology for generating thermal heat and costs are as low as 6 cents per kilowatt (kWh) hour.
“Part of our challenge is to do a better job of educating policymakers—at both the state and federal level—about the enormous benefits SHC provides to American consumers and businesses, as well as to the U.S. economy,” says SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “If we’re successful, the payoff will be enormous in terms of future job creation and energy savings.”
Another big advantage of SHC, according to the report, is the positive impact it has on the environment.
“With ambitious targets and a smart, easy-to-understand strategy now in place, SHC can help to displace an estimated 226 million tons of carbon emissions annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 47 million passenger cars off the road,” says Ole Pilgaard, who chaired the task force which helped develop the new SHC roadmap. “Without question, this plan will benefit both our economy and our environment.”
In addition to creating tens of thousands of new jobs and dramatically reducing electricity costs, BEAM Engineering says the SHC roadmap provides a wealth of other advantages, including:
- Saving $19.1 billion to homeowners, businesses, schools and government by deferring the need for electric and natural gas infrastructure expansion and repairs
- Raising $2.1 billion annually in increased federal tax revenue through job creation and economic growth
- Increasing America’s annual manufacturing GDP by $1.4 billion
“This is a common sense plan that’s good for America,” adds Mike Healy, who serves as chairman of the U.S. SHC Alliance at SEIA. “Smart, sustained investments in solar heating and cooling will also help to strengthen energy security in the U.S. by localizing resources and reducing our dependence on often-times unstable foreign energy supplies. It’s a win-win all the way around.”