Tea Party conservatives and Sierra Club environmentalists are pairing together in an unlikely coalition united in favor of solar power.
On July 11, members of both groups gathered in Georgia to celebrate a decision made by Georgia’s leading utility company to increase its use of solar power, an energy mode that’s quickly becoming a more affordable option for American households.
The George Public Service Commission, the largest utility, announced it will add 525 MW of solar power to its overall portfolio, ushering in enough ammo to power 48,000 homes. It’s the latest move in a state that’s realizing the economic and environmental benefits of solar power — last year, Georgia increased its solar capacity by 44 percent, becoming the fourth largest solar state in the nation, according to PV Magazine.
The shift toward solar wasn’t an easy sell. The move to designate a large chunk of the state utility’s energy production to solar came after a 4-1 commission vote to do so — and that, in turn, came after a two-year debate over whether to allow investment in solar growth.
Costs related to solar energy are steadily decreasing, leading to the rise of both residential and commercial solar-powered units. According to the Geostellar Quarterly Index, which factors the viability of solar energy, the affordability and investment return on solar energy is at an all-time high. The report went so far to say that investment in residential solar panels proved to be more financially rewarding than investment in S&P 500 stocks.
Tea Party members applauded the move as one that recognized the importance of free market capitalism. For them, the state utility recognized the increased value in investing in solar energy.
“The premise is simple: Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy,” argues conservative writer Debbie Dooley at Grist. “Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.”
Dooley refers to the partnership as the “Green Tea Coalition,” one that’s pitting economically viable, environmentally sound practices against the fossil fuel industry.
Environmentalists with the Sierra Club welcomed the support of their newfound bedfellows, but for different reasons — the battle against climate change and the investment in renewable, common resources are causes environmentalists have long supported. Now, their cause is not only environmentally friendly, but also affordable.
“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” Environment Georgia policy advocate Jennette Gayer told PV Magazine. “The solar leaders in our country have been shown that if you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, set big goals and get good policies on the books…. Georgia has taken a huge step in the right direction.”
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