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Solar plus wind = energy and jobs

Advocates of both solar and wind power took to their soap boxes earlier today, urging policy-makers to clear a path that would allow more growth in both renewable energy arenas.

In Philadelphia, representatives of PennEnvironment teamed up with a full ensemble -- IBEW Local 98, Solardelphia, Sunpower Builders, Komax Solar, GreenWorks Development, ASET Solar and state Reps. Matt Bradford and Greg Vitali -- to outline a vision that would have the sun meeting 10 percent of the nation's power needs by 2030.

"The sun provides more energy in an hour than all the coal mines and oil wells do in a year," said Nathan Willcox, PennEnvironment's Energy & Clean Air Advocate, according to a press release about the event. "This solar energy is limitless, pollution-free and increasingly cost-competitive with older, dirtier sources of energy. Pennsylvania and the nation must figure out how to tap more of the heat and power of the sun."

Among the state's success stories outlined by the group:

A 157 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) installation at the Spear Products, Inc. facility in Coopersburg, near Allentown, is expected to save Spear Products $16,000 on its electric bills in the first year alone, while cutting global warming pollution equivalent to emissions from 292 barrels of oil. Solardelphia installed the project.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 98 has retro-fitted all of their buildings with solar PV energy systems, which also provided apprentices with direct interaction with working solar energy panels.

Pennsylvania solar companies have greatly expanded within the past year, thanks to the PA Sunshine Solar Program and the Commonwealth Financing Authority Solar Grant Program. Before the opening of these programs, SunPower Builders was one of only roughly 20 solar installers in Pennsylvania; today over 300 solar installers are participating in these programs.

After focusing its engineering talent on the solar industry, equipment manufacturer Komax Solar has increased its workforce nearly 600% since 2003. Komax Solar develops and manufactures automation systems used in the production of photovoltaic solar panels.

The local event was part of a larger national effort, timed to the release of the report, Building a Solar Future: Repowering America's Homes, Businesses and Industry with Solar Energy.

Meanwhile, in D.C., wind energy industry executives called on Congress to pass a strong national Renewable Electricity Standard as the best way to save and create U.S. jobs.

"We need to drive demand in a stable, predictable way," said Vic Abate of GE Energy, the largest supplier of wind turbines in the U.S. market, according to a press release about the event. "For the jobs to grow the Renewable Electricity Standard is critical."

"There are three main points to make about the RES: jobs, jobs, and jobs," said John W. Grabner, president of  Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company, Inc. The Ohio company makes steel bolts used in wind turbines.

Denise Bode, CEO, American Wind Energy Association, said: "We have the potential for explosive growth if we can get long term support. A national RES will result not just in new installations, but also in new manufacturing. The RES is the most important buy-American policy we can do."

A lot more people spoke _ not surprising, since 120 wind energy representatives are in D.C. now for tomorrow's "Wind Power on Capitol Hill," a day that includes more than 70 meetings where the reps will urge lawmakers to pass the RES.