A new bill was introduced in the US Senate by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would provide for incentives and tax breaks designed to get 10 million solar roofs and 200,000 solar water heaters deployed over the next 10 years. The rebates would pay for up to half the cost of new solar systems, and would be in addition to a slew of already available tax credits, rebates, and other incentives that are already available at the federal, state, and local levels. Grist.com interviewed Senator Sanders about his bill – The 10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Water Heating Act of 2010, and he goes through the math to show what his bill would do:
“Remember that there are already a lot of tax credits, federal and in many states. The federal tax credit would be up to 30 percent off the cost of a project. That’s a lot. Let’s say hypothetically you wanted to spend $40,000 on solar. If you take 30 percent off that, you’re down to $28,000. If you get state help you’re down to $25,000. Then the federal government would pay half of that.”
Sen. Sanders estimates that the costs of this program would be between 2 and 3 billion dollars a year, and that the ten million solar roofs would generate 30 gigawatts of electricity when completed. One big benefit of his plan is that its easy to tie individual solar roofs into the electrical grid, since the houses are already connected to the grid. Getting power to where its needed is one of the big issues with some of the large scale alternative energy projects being designed – such as the big solar arrays proposed for the Mojave desert or the original Pickens Plan concept by T. Boone Pickens, which was scaled back partly because lack of available transmission lines meant that Pickens couldn’t come up with a cost effective way to tie all those wind turbines into the current power grid.
Treehugger.com has a good overall assessment of the proposed bill. No word yet on its chances, but the bill has nine co-sponsors so far – Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).