CONGRESSMAN JIM HIMES

Representing the 4th District of Connecticut

Himes Amendment Opens Door for Federal Investment in Local Solar Technology

October 21, 2009
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Local solar technology companies will have access to federal investment under an amendment by Congressman Jim Himes passed today as part of the Solar Technology Roadmap Act (STRA). The legislation increases the United States’ commitment to solar technology to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and help ensure that sustainable, clean energy jobs of the 21st century are created in the United States.

“Investment in solar technology promises great returns in our efforts to create clean energy jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Congressman Himes. “Amazing solar energy research is taking place right here in Fairfield County, and it’s critical these scientists have access to the full spectrum of available technologies as they explore innovative ways to make solar energy more efficient and cost effective.”

The Himes Amendment to STRA clarifies that certain cutting-edge solar technologies will be eligible for the R&D funding this bill authorizes. Originally, STRA would not have included solar thermal and concentrating solar photovoltaic (CPV) technologies. These technologies are among the most efficient methods to harness solar energy because they focus sunlight onto a photovoltaic surface, the surface that actually absorbs the sun’s energy.  Though currently more costly to produce, CPV technology will be essential to improving the efficiency of solar panels and thus solar power’s viability as a competitive alternative to fossil fuels.

“Federal investment in this advanced CPV technology allows us to make solar energy a cost effective and viable alternative to fossil fuels,” said Patricia Agudow, Vice President of OPEL Solar, Inc. based in Shelton, Connecticut. “Congressman Himes' amendment ensures the CPV technology we use will be eligible for federal investment, which will help CPV achieve its maximum potential to grow solar usage, create U.S. jobs, and promote clean energy in the U.S. and global marketplaces.”

The U.S. spends over $25 billion a year on oil from the Persian Gulf alone. American-based energy solutions would reduce this demand. In the 1990s, the U.S. led the world in solar panel production, but today only one in 20 solar panels are made in America.

“Solar energy is first and foremost a national security issue,” said Congressman Himes. “One of the smartest things we can do to keep money out of the hands of petrol dictators is to invest in American-made energy.”

The Solar Technology Roadmap Act invests over $2 billion over five years and establishes a comprehensive process to facilitate the research, development, and demonstration of American solar technology in partnership with the private sector. The Roadmap will lay out short-term and long-term objectives for solar technology research and development, and it will account for and mitigate any negative environmental impacts. The bill provides a path forward to make solar technology more dependable and widely available to American consumers. The Roadmap will further authorize the Department of Energy to award grants to entrepreneurs, research agencies, and academic laboratories that are leading the field in solar technology development and solar manufacturing.

The roadmap concept is modeled on the highly successful International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).  The ITRS is widely credited with helping the semiconductor industry sustain rapid technological improvement over an extended period of time, and it is credited with helping U.S. semiconductor companies retain global leadership in their industry. Without the necessary financial and structural investments in research and development of solar energy, the U.S. will not lead the world in this twenty first century industry.

Click here to view the Congressman’s speech on the House floor in support of his amendment and investment in solar technology.