Media Missing The Big Picture On SolarSeptember 11, 2012 2:39 PM EDT ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS
A solar industry group announced this week that the U.S. is on track to install as much photovoltaic solar power this year as we did in the last decade. But the media's myopic focus on Solyndra has overshadowed promising signs that the U.S. could be headed towards a clean energy revolution if we provide clear, long-term incentives, rather than walking away after one company's demise.
A Media Matters analysis finds that one year after Solyndra declared bankruptcy, major media outlets still treat it as news despite a distinct lack of new information. Fox News stands out for its overblown coverage: in 2012, the network has discussed Solyndra 84 times in primetime -- three times more than the other major TV networks combined:
Our analysis also found that of those hosted or quoted on Solyndra, 71% opposed federal clean energy investments, while only 25% supported them. Meanwhile, mainstream outlets have advanced baseless allegations that Solyndra's loan was politically motivated, while overlooking the shifting market conditions that led to Solyndra's demise.
While the media continues to cover the Solyndra "scandal," the real story has developed almost unnoticed: clean energy is booming in the U.S., driven in large part by federal investments like the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program.
The report released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association found that U.S. solar installations more than doubled in the second quarter compared to last year, adding 742 megawatts of capacity. This growth was driven largely by new utility-scale solar generation projects, including two large projects -- Agua Caliente and Mesquite Solar -- that benefitted from DOE loan guarantees. The U.S. now has enough installed solar capacity to power one million homes, according to GTM.
The wind industry has also seen tremendous growth in recent years, and recently reached 50 gigawatts of generation capacity, surpassing previous estimates of 40 GW of wind power by 2030. Wind accounts for 35% of new U.S. power capacity since 2007, and the Department of Energy estimates that it could provide 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030. The U.S. wind boom is due in part to the federal production tax credit, which has enabled wind power to be competitive with natural gas. But unless Congress acts, the tax credit will expire at the end of this year, resulting in the loss of up to 37,000 jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Association.