(Washington, DC)—Today, the House of Representatives voted 310 to 106 to approve, H.R. 3585, a bill that creates an updatable strategic roadmap to advance solar energy technologies through prioritized research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities.
H.R. 3585, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, establishes a comprehensive process to create this roadmap for solar technology RD&D activities conducted by the federal government in partnership with the private sector, with a focus on the Department of Energy (DOE).
The bill authorizes $350 million for DOE to carry out these activities in FY2011, rising to $550 million in FY2015.
“In Tennessee, over the last few years we’ve seen first-hand the major potential that solar energy has to create new jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil in the process,” said Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “But given the massive amount of solar energy resources our country’s been blessed with and the technical challenges we still need to overcome, Tennessee can’t be expected to tackle this alone. That’s why we need a national plan, and that’s why we are discussing this important bill today.”
“This country actually invented the first photovoltaic technologies, and we still have some of the smartest, most talented people in the world working to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar cells today,” said bill author Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). “But in order to use our precious research dollars as effectively as possible, these people – these patriots – need a serious roadmap, and that’s why I’m so pleased to offer this bill today.”
The Secretary of Energy is 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 bill requires the Secretary of Energy to appoint a Solar Technology Roadmap Committee, which includes industry representation. The Secretary must also appoint a Committee chair, who is not a federal employee. The Committee will 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 2 years), mid-term (up to 7 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 percent of DOE solar RD&D funding in 2012 is pursuant to the recommendations of the roadmap, ramping up to 75 percent in 2015. The Committee must update the roadmap annually as needed, and comprehensively review and revise it every three years.
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.
The bill also authorizes DOE to conduct at least 13 solar demonstration projects of various sizes, and it requires DOE to study the performance of existing 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.
The bill has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Solar Energy Industries Association, BP, IBM, Intel, and National Semiconductor.