Iowa’s Energy Future Pointed Directly At Solar. Solar’s time has arrived.

Imagine a readily available source of energy that could produce electricity for our homes and businesses, right where Iowan’s live and work. Iowa Solar Panel energy could be the next new engine of job creation for Iowans, provided they seize the opportunities in front of them.

Iowa has become a world leader in biofuels and the big wind industry. This is thanks to great natural resources (Sun, soils and wind) and smart state policies and let’s not forget taxpayers, who have provided plenty of help in the form of public subsidies. Over the last decade, taxpayers have invested billions in these industries the least of which is now solar and wind energy.

This investment has paid off by creating new jobs and new markets for Iowa products. Iowa’s next opportunity is to harvest the sun using solar directly to power and heat our homes, farms, businesses, public buildings, and automobiles.

Iowa has abundant sunshine. Solar energy grows billions of dollars of crops each year in our state and that energy is there for the taking. The solar industry is taking off in the states that surround us. It can create jobs in every county in our state too.

Solar’s time has arrived. The amount of electricity generated by solar photovoltaic installations will double next year, according to a new report by the iSuppli Corporation. The report predicts that two gigawatts of solar photovoltaic will be added in the United States in 2011. That’s enough to power 1.5 million to 2 million homes.

Venture-capital investors have noticed this opportunity with custom financing just to power solar. Investment in solar increased by 77 percent in 2010 to $1.58 billion, according to a new report by Ernst and Young.

Growth in the solar industry means well-paying jobs for many people in our local communities: electricians, builders, plumbers, contractors, engineers, technicians, and salespeople. Hawkeye, Kirkwood, Western Iowa Tech, Iowa Central, Indian Hills, and Eastern Iowa Community Colleges are all helping Iowans learn to sell, install, and keep up solar energy systems.

In addition, Iowa small businesses have united to create the Iowa Solar Small Wind Energy Trade Association. They are working to support all aspects of this emerging industry in Iowa.

What our fledgling Iowa solar businesses need now are customers. Our neighbors in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and our relatives in Colorado, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio are all way ahead of us.

They all have great state policies and financial incentives to help make solar technology more affordable for businesses, homeowners, and public buildings.

That’s why the Iowa Senate is working on legislation (Senate File 99) to jump-start this industry with a set of clean-energy incentives. They include consumer rebates for home and business solar installations.

Iowa is clearly a leader in wind and biofuels, but we are on the sidelines when it comes to solar. Now is the time to create the new clean energy jobs of the future.

Article Daily Iowan by Joe Bolkcom. Joe is the Iowa state senator for Iowa City.