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President Barack Obama wth Vice President Joe Biden speaks with CEO of Namaste Solar Electric, Inc., Blake Jones, while looking at solar panels at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, Col., Feb. 17, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“Solar Summit” honors industry leaders, new funding program announced by White House

Zachary Toliver | Shale Plays Media

Last Thursday ten local leaders from around the United States were acknowledged at the White House to commemorate great achievements in solar energy expansion. This summit is the latest initiative of the president’s Climate Action plan. The “Solar Summit” was the latest summit held under the Champions of Change program. The program honors Americans nationwide that are doing extraordinary things in their communities. This summit was also held in conjunction with the announcement of the Department of Energy’s $15 million Solar Market pathway funding opportunity.

The Department of Energy (DOE) hopes to encourage state, tribal, and local leaders in developing plans that create the economic environment for cost-competitive solar deployment. The Solar Market Pathway funding opportunity has a goal to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by 2020. The money will be used primarily to support multi-year plans and original programs to help stimulate noteworthy solar market growth.  Also, in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the DOE has plans to integrate 100 megawatts of renewable energy on-site at federally subsidized housing by the end of the decade.

“As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Energy Department is committed to further driving down the cost of solar energy and supporting innovative community-based programs – creating more jobs, reducing carbon pollution and boosting economic growth.”

Related: Plane unveiled for first solar-powered flight around the world

In addition to the Market Pathway announcement, the summit hosted numerous speakers to acknowledge and support ongoing developments within the solar industry. One of the ten notable honorees included Henry Red cloud, Founder and Sole owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE) on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. His company is one of the first 100 percent Native American owned and operated renewable energy companies in the nation. Red Cloud’s company manufactures and installs solar heating systems to homes across tribal communities. In addition to integrating solar heating systems, LSE also offers a training program through the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) which provides tribal members with hands on teaching to develop renewable energy programs and businesses.

Solar technologies have dropped significantly in price under the Obama Administration. Since 2010 prices for the average solar panel are down nearly 60 percent. In addition, industry analyses sited by the White House claims over 143,000 workers are employed through the solar industry which is a 50 percent increase since 2010. They also asserted that the solar industry is growing by nearly 20 percent each year, faster than any other sector within the United States.

Although renewable energy sources in America are growing, in 2012 they accounted for only nine percent of primary energy consumption in the United States according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Nonetheless, solar energy installation has increased from 1.2 gigawatts to 13 gigawatts in the past four years. That is the equivalent of powering over 2 million homes. In 2013, solar energy was the second largest source of electricity added to the grid, ranking only behind natural gas.

With huge reserves in natural gas and oil found across the United States, it’s difficult to imagine substantial changes in America’s energy consumption in the immediate future. But with lower cost in technologies, growing efforts in government funding, and innovative citizens incorporating renewable resources, clean energy such as solar is bound to become a vital player in the energy industry.

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