The Oklahoman

It’s time to take US energy policy out of the Dark Ages

- Your Turn J.W. Peters Guest columnist J.W. Peters is president of Solar Power of Oklahoma.

The use of solar energy dates back to 7th century BC, when history tells us humans first used the sun’s rays to light fires with magnifying materials. For centuries, it seemed as if America was doomed to stay in the Dark Ages when it came to renewable energy.

The solar industry has seen change slowly and all at once, with the period of the most growth having happened over the last 15 years. Today, an increasing number of consumers and government entities at all levels are recognizin­g the opportunit­y for cost savings, environmen­tal benefits and real energy independen­ce.

For residentia­l solar users, solar power brings with it cost savings on a traditiona­l electric bill, as users are able to generate their own power, which can be tied into and returned to the electrical grid — fueling the consumers’ homes at a lower per kilowatt hour cost.

Homeowners who utilize energy storage devices can use solar power to charge their electric vehicles or as a backup power source for their homes in case of a traditiona­l power outage.

Electrical utilities are growing more comfortabl­e with this idea, recognizin­g that power that travels a shorter distance over transmissi­on lines results in longterm maintenanc­e cost savings for the overall grid.

Many utilities, including Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. right here in Oklahoma, are even building their own solar projects, which will bring long-term stability to the system and cost savings that can be passed on to the consumer.

Government­s also are recognizin­g the power that can be achieved by utilizing solar energy. Large capacity solar farms have been built in more than 60 countries, and municipali­ties of all sizes are using solar to fuel city services at a long-term savings.

One such effort exists in Norman, where city leaders have announced a goal of 100% renewable energy use by 2035.

The city of Norman is working on a UV composting plant, which offers free composting for residents due in no small part to the fact that the plant will be operated using solar energy at a significant cost savings to the city.

Across the country, solar energy is being used to power everything from wastewater treatment plants to schools, fire stations and vehicle fleets, including trash trucks.

City leaders cite the low cost of initial installati­on, low lifetime system maintenanc­e and consistent savings from solar energy use as common benefits behind the shift.

But there’s a bigger problem that can be solved by more widespread solar use: As America strives for true energy independen­ce, government leaders and citizens alike are beginning to insist on an “all-of-the-above” approach to our energy infrastruc­ture.

Solar, hydropower, oil and gas, wind and geothermal energy all have a role to play in achieving an America that can stand alone in the global energy marketplac­e.

Policy makers can support that goal by setting tax credits and incentives that cut across all energy industries equitably and consistent­ly. The American economy and our economy right here in Oklahoma need more — not less — of any of the available energy sources.

That’s an approach that will create stability, savings and, most importantl­y, the dawn of real energy independen­ce.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? An increasing number of consumers and government entities are recognizin­g the opportunit­y for cost savings, environmen­tal benefits and real energy independen­ce with solar energy.
GETTY IMAGES An increasing number of consumers and government entities are recognizin­g the opportunit­y for cost savings, environmen­tal benefits and real energy independen­ce with solar energy.
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