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Time for a Conservative Rethink of Solar Energy

Solar Energy
Solar Energy Panels. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

If I told you that the free market, of its own accord, had made a domestic energy source that was cheaper than anything America imports, just about every Republican in Congress would be ecstatic.

If I told these same members that this domestic energy source was highly dispersed, making it less susceptible to cyber, or even kinetic, attacks, that would be gravy.

If I told Republican members that red states had some of the biggest untapped reserves of the energy source, they’d start to think it was too good to be true.

If I told you this source would ease the burden on natural gas, allowing us to sell liquified natural gas to our European allies when Russia cuts them off this winter, they’d assume I was making it all up.

Yet that energy source exists. It’s solar energy, and it is past time that conservatives rethink their position on it. Yes, solar received subsidies for years, and yes, solar has long been sold as a “green alternative.” But let’s not let branding get in the way of cold, hard facts about solar’s place in America’s energy diet. Solar energy is inexpensive. Solar energy is domestic. Solar energy is secure. Solar is good both for America’s economy and for America’s national security.

To start, solar is one of the only ways to become truly energy independent, and it’s now the least expensive energy source. At just 1-3 cents per kilowatt hour, it’s 20-27% cheaper than even coal. Rooftop solar is also good for individuals and small businesses. Homeowners and churches also often find that the panels pay for themselves, because the sun is taxless. Solar panels also make individuals far less dependent on monopolistic utilities and the regulation that protects them. Some conservatives are supportive of rooftop solar in particular – Governor Ron DeSantis, for instance, vetoed an anti-solar bill in Florida – so the conservative movement should get behind solar more generally.

Solar is also good for the wider American economy and job market. The $33 billion solar industry has produced hundreds of thousands of new domestic jobs in recent years, not to mention career training programs. It’s a popular industry for our nation’s veterans, who now own and operate successful solar businesses throughout red states.

Finally, solar is a valuable tool to support traditional conservative priorities, namely robust American national security and protecting Americans in the homeland. On national security, solar enables us to undermine Russia’s leverage over our European allies. Vladimir Putin has made clear he intends to “freeze” Europe this winter, withholding energy to try to undercut European support for Ukraine. Solar energy would instead enable the U.S. to take the natural gas we would otherwise use here, liquify it, and send it to Europe. Such sales hollow out Putin’s threats.

Of course, the first job of the national security establishment is to protect American civilians and, again, solar is a boon. Specifically, in the face of both natural disasters and threats to the electric grid by overseas hackers, solar is dispersed and resilient. No single attack or hurricane can wipe out the entire solar infrastructure. With each building and house as its own backup generator, solar plus battery systems protect from blackouts and other grid vulnerabilities.

This isn’t to say solar doesn’t face challenges in the U.S. There are issues in the market that conservatives should push to address. Most notably, we need to rapidly increase our domestic supply of critical minerals that are an essential component in solar panels and batteries. Right now, China has effectively cornered the critical minerals market, so, in a conflict situation, China could cut off our supply. Indeed, bipartisan legislation already exists to increase our supply, and Republicans should aggressively pursue passing it.

I understand why many conservatives may be hesitant to embrace solar power. It has been a Democratic priority for decades now. In some parts of the country, having a solar panel on your roof is primarily an advertisement to your neighbors of how progressive you are. Still, there is no denying that solar power is a solution to many major conservative concerns. Even if you take climate change entirely out of the equation, embracing solar is clearly in the national interest.

Conservatives, it’s time to rethink solar. If you ignore the branding and focus on the facts, it’s easy to see how solar makes America stronger, more prosperous, and more secure. If those aren’t conservative ideals, nothing is.

Matt Moore is Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition in South Carolina.

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Matt Moore is Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition in South Carolina.