A vast majority of Americans, across all political parties, overwhelmingly support development and funding of solar energy. Ninety-one percent of Republicans, 97 percent of Democrats and 98 percent of Independents agree that developing solar power is vital to the United States, according to the SCHOTT Solar Barometer, a survey conducted by Kelton Research, an independent polling firm.

The survey revealed that 77 percent of Americans feel the development of solar power and other renewable energy sources should be a major priority of the federal government. Independent voters felt strongest about this, compared to voters in other political parties, with 86 percent of Independents supporting the statement.

When asked which one energy source they would support if they were president, 41 percent of Americans picked solar.

Also according to the survey, nearly three-quarters of Republicans (72 percent), Democrats (72 percent) and Independents (74 percent) favor an extension of the federal investment tax credits (ITC) as a way to encourage development of solar power and to fund continued development of the technology. In contrast, only 8 percent of Americans believe the ITC should not be extended.

Current federal legislation, which provides incentives to spur the growth of renewable energy, is set to expire at the end of the year. Experts predict that without long-term renewal of the legislation, the solar energy industry will struggle to maintain its momentum. And proponents are using jobs as an argument.

According to independent analysis by Navigant Consulting, this would translate into the loss of 39,000 jobs, as well as the loss of nearly $8 billion in investments. When wind is included, 116,000 jobs and $19 billion in investment are at risk, according to the report.

“Solar development means job growth for Americans by Americans in an industry that will benefit America,” said Dr. Gerald Fine, president and CEO of SCHOTT North America. “Rather than rely on foreign sources for fuel, the United States can aspire to become the world’s leader in clean energy.”

Extension of the tax credits continues to be in doubt as Congress debates differing plans. In May 2008, the House Ways and Means Committee cleared H.R. 6049, the Energy Independence and Tax Relief Act. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, this legislation would have secured America’s clean-energy future by closing an income tax loophole.

On June 17, however, the Senate failed to reach bipartisan consensus on the bill.

SEIA President Rhone Resch said, “Not extending the solar tax credits is an enormous tax increase that will cost America tens of thousands of jobs. If the Senate is unable to act—and the solar tax credits are allowed to expire—it will result in the loss of billions of dollars in new investments in solar.”