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Environment & Energy: Solar Power for One Million Roofs

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Million Solar Roofs Initiative is an ambitious project, but it's important to America in terms of generating and conserving energy. The Initiative proposes to install solar energy systems in one million U.S. buildings by the year 2010.

The project was first announced on June 26, 1997, by President Bill Clinton in a speech delivered to a United Nations session on Environment and Development. The initiative includes two distinctly different types of solar devices, although both derive energy directly from the sun.

The first devices are called photovoltaic arrays, which convert energy from the sun into electricity. That electricity can then be used to power the building, and excess power can be sold back to the utility company.

The second solar devices are called thermal panels, taking heat from the sun and transferring it to a hot water and/or space heating system. Such devices are often used to help heat swimming pools, which can be a major energy drain.

To accomplish its lofty goals, DOE has made an ongoing effort to work with the building industry; federal agencies; utility providers; solar energy developers and installers; lending institutions; city and state governments; and many other organizations, both private and governmental to remove the various barriers that have traditionally held back the widespread use of solar energy.

The DOE doesn't take a direct role in local or state activities, and doesn't offer financial aid to install solar energy devices or systems. However, the program does bring the power and influence of the federal government together with businesses, organizations, civic leaders, and government officials to help increase the demand and market share for the many solar energy applications that are available.

One of the major goals of the Initiative is to reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions. If the Initiative's goal of one million solar energy units is met in 2010, estimates suggest that America's carbon emission will be reduced by the equivalent of 850,000 automobiles. That's a huge decrease, and a target well worth shooting for.

Another goal is to create more high-tech jobs in America. As a result of the Initiative, an estimated 70,000 new jobs will be created due to the large increase in the for qualified technicians to help install and service an ever-growing number of photovoltaic arrays and solar hot water systems.

Increasing America's domestic market for solar-powered systems will also help keep the country more competitive in the world marketplace. In fact, some estimates have valued the photovoltaic market alone at more than .5 billion worldwide. More information about the Million Roofs Initiative can be found at

Copyright 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher

About the Author: Jeanette Fisher, author of interior design and real estate books helps home owners makeover their homes with "green design." For more home environmental issue articles, visit Environmental Psychology

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