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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.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jon

    September 29, 2022 at 9:16 pm

    Largely true, though I’m unaware of solar that’s producing electricity at one cent per kilowatt hour. There’s much that’s securing production contracts between three and four cents per kilowatt hour. Still cheaper than coal, about half the price of natural gas, and about a tenth that of nuclear.

    The astonishing affordability of solar is not entirely due to the free market, but a result of decades of government support, as well as Chinese miscalculations in the market and factory production.

  2. Thomas Russell Weaver

    September 30, 2022 at 12:04 am

    My information is that solar panels contain some dangerous chemicals/components and that the disposal fees are extremely high. Solar panels are found on many a roof throughout the USA. After 20 to 30 years, they require replacement. What and who bares the burden for properly disposing of these panels?

  3. Andrew

    September 30, 2022 at 3:30 am

    Articles on lithium sulfate look really good. Imagine if, in, say, 10 year’s time, you have cargo ships filled with these batteries. You use solar to charge them from USA, Australia etc, then sail them to low resource high energy using places like Europe, and just plug in some cables at the port. Several of these ships at the port, supplying an entire city’s power. Awesome concept.

  4. Fred Adams

    September 30, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    I question the cost figures. I don’t think they include capital costs of installation and development. If solar were truly cost competitive, it would not have required massive government subsidies, and it would be flooding the energy market. Downside: it requires a great deal of surface area to generate s significant amount of power.

    I installed solar heating on my roof for swimming pool heat. It cost $5,000 to install, and has annual maintenance cost of a couple of hundred. The power is free. And it doesn’t perform as advertised. And, I don’t know how long my capital investment will last.

    Solar and wind do have a place, where a free market sees fit to use them. They will never replace base station power, due to unreliability (sun doesn’t shine, wind doesn’t blow) and the large amount of surface area required per MW.

    Hydroelectric is good, where achievable. Not much hydro capacity remains to be developed. Nuclear, natgas, oil and coal remain the only feasible choices for base station generation.

  5. Him

    October 1, 2022 at 1:06 am

    This article follows the Media crowd by being silent on the problem of “rare earth minerals”. Please update your stance by tackling that issue.

    – not enough rare earth minerals to sustain demand for solar and batteries

    – most rare earths mined by China, thus putting the West at the mercy of a Totalitarian state

    – that the enormous energy needed to extra rare earth minerals for solar panels and batteries, itself adds to atmospheric pollution of greenhouse gases. i.e. it shifts the pollution elsewhere, but does not reduce pollution. Most politicians don’t care if the pollution remains, but is shifted elsewhere, because they can appear to be “Green”, when in fact they’ve made other parts of the world “less Green”. As a typical Green about shifting the pollution elsewhere, and they do not care.

    – when these solar panels get to useby date in 20-30 years, no solution to recover those rare earths, thus setting up a ecological disaster in 20-30 years. (Most short-term thinkers won’t care about that).

  6. Robert Kletzker

    October 1, 2022 at 10:06 pm

    Very well written and nonpartisan. I retired from the Army after 21 years and have political views thàt are all over the place. One thing that really turns me away from an article is someone else’s political rhetoric. Well done sir. My wife and I just bought a house in Nebraska. We are going to install solar. That being said, we definitely want to find a veteran owned company to do the installation. The reason that I am telling you this is because I wanted to compliment you for truly focusing on the right thing. Not the political party, or the price savings. But because you are absolutely çorrect. Ultimately it will save American lives. And that is what it’s about. Thank you again for writing this article.

  7. Omega 13

    October 3, 2022 at 4:36 pm

    “Right now, China has effectively cornered the critical minerals market, so, in a conflict situation, China could cut off our supply.”

    Your comment there tells everyone why solar is an awful idea. Also, your figures are not an apples-to-apples comparison with other energy.

    Soon, the only thing “conservative” about you is the title you gave your organization. There is nothing conservative about your argument.

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