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How Can The Rise of Solar Energy Bolster the Growth of the U.S. Economy?

Troy Helming (aka @SolarNinjaTroy), who has been in solar for >40 years since 1980 when his chores during junior high school included maintenance on the home solar heating system, wrote a book called The Clean Power Revolution in 2004.

The two primary reasons why people are switching to solar are 1) to reduce energy costs, 2) eliminate energy price volatility (solar “fuel” costs are free so the price is fixed for the 35-year expected life of solar panels), 3) energy independence, and 4) to reduce air & water pollution and mitigate climate change. Many people know that solar is an extraordinary technology, yet the general assumption is that it is still too expensive. And many people think reducing carbon emissions by supporting more clean energy will hurt the economy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

A transformation to renewable energy will stimulate the economy far more than anyone outside of the energy industry may realize. For example, the two fastest-growing jobs in the USA are solar photovoltaic installer (#1) and wind turbine technician (#2).

It may surprise you that there are far more jobs in the solar industry (344,532) than in the coal industry (50,361). Solar employs nearly 7 times more workers than coal!

Overall, the clean energy industry (including electric vehicle manufacturing) employs about 3.4 million workers. Many of these are high-paying jobs that are difficult or impossible to outsource: installation, maintenance, and specialized manufacturing. That compares to about 1.1 million workers in the fossil fuel industry. By some measures, the US green economy has 10 times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry!.

Troy Helming (aka @SolarNinjaTroy), who has been in solar for >40 years since 1980 when his chores during junior high school included maintenance on the home solar heating system, wrote a book called The Clean Power Revolution in 2004. In his book, he described the Freedom Plan: a blueprint to convert North America to 100% renewable energy at the cost of about $10 Trillion and showed savings to the economy of at least $1 Trillion per year. That’s a simple “payback” of 10 years. Not great, but not terrible either.

However, Troy has helped build the wind and solar industries, founding several companies that have built > 12,000 megawatts of solar & wind projects (roughly equivalent to ~24 huge power plants). His inventions, companies, public speaking, and leadership have played a key role in the clean power revolution. Since he created the Freedom Plan in his book, the costs of solar & wind power have dropped far faster than his – and nearly all others’ – most optimistic predictions.

The cost to transform the continent to 100% clean energy, including new transmission lines desperately needed to access the best solar & wind resource areas, is now closer to $5-6 Trillion. And the benefits have increased, as society has borne the brunt of ever-increasing damage caused by more violent storms and more prevalent drought and flooding due to climate change. The “payback” is now closer to 4-5 years or better. Some studies, and Mr. Helming’s analysis, show that it could be as little as a 3-year payback to convert the USA to 80% renewable energy. Not to mention the cleaner air, water, and food thanks to zero pollution from solar, wind, and most other renewable energy sources!

Regardless of whether one chooses to support solar energy is financial, ecological, or individual, it indeed a wise step to take. One can view this transformation at a macro-economic level (how it helps a nation’s entire economy), or at a micro-level in one’s own home. The economics are similar either way. For a homeowner, the costs of solar are much higher (on a per-watt-basis) than a utility-scale farm. However, a homeowner pays a correspondingly higher price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for electricity than a utility. Therefore, the payback is similar in both cases.

“Solar power can drastically reduce and even eliminate your electricity bill,” says Troy Helming, Founder & CEO of Pristine Sun Corporation, a San-Francisco based solar company.  “Moreover, when you convert to driving an electric vehicle, you dramatically reduce fuel and maintenance expenses. These add up to many thousands of dollars a year for most families. If you have solar at your home, you can “drive on sunshine” and not only completely eliminate fuel costs, you’re also able to pull into your garage knowing that you’re no longer spewing fumes that could literally kill your children.”

Helming is distinguished as a leading reputable advocate of clean energy and remains a notable speaker as a solar entrepreneur. He has spoken on NPR, PBS, and numerous rews channels including the Public Eye Radio show regarding clean energy and environmentalism and was invited as a guest speaker at GEOS 490, Seminar in the Geosciences: Renewable Energy and the Environment. Helming also served as the presenter at the FIABCI Global Real Estate Summit 2017, among hundreds of other speaking engagements from 2001 through 2021.

Establishing Pristine Sun’s first company entity in 2009, Helming focuses on developing, building, and operating utility-scale solar farms as well as commercial and industrial rooftop and parking lot canopy solar projects. Additionally, Troy Helming has filed for 3 patent applications with over 55 patent claims being an inventor for cleantech innovation.

Helming explains that whether you’re a property owner, business, or nonprofit, energy expenses can make up a considerable segment of your monthly costs. “With a solar system, you’ll create essentially “free” power during your systems’ 35+ year lifecycle. Regardless of whether you don’t create 100% of the energy you consume, solar will lower your bills, helping you save a ton of money and avoid the volatile price swings of fossil fuels,” he says.

The sun is a near-infinite wellspring of energy and one of the world’s most valuable assets. One popular (and oft-repeated) 2014 investigation found that less than 25,000 square miles of American southwest covered with rows of solar panels (a region generally the size of West Virginia) would produce enough power to meet the whole world’s energy needs. By switching your home or business to solar energy and driving electric, you can help utilize the sun’s plentiful, free abundance and bring the United States closer to energy independence.

Helming elucidates that worldwide energy markets are famously unstable, and price fluctuations can genuinely affect the U.S. economy. “At the point when we increase our solar power generation within the U.S. to at least 20% of the total electricity generation – like what California achieved in 2019 after about 10 years of consistent effort, we protect our economy from the costly price variances and guarantee a more stable environment for businesses to thrive in our economy. This creates a more secure and stable economic future for our children, and will help lead to many millions of new jobs for the next few generations” he says.

Discoveries from The Solar Foundation’s 2019 Solar Jobs Census underscore that development:

Since 2010, solar-powered industry business has developed by 167 percent, arriving at almost 250,000 positions in 2019.

The Jobs Census portrays that: Somewhere in the range of 2014 and 2019, solar positions grew multiple times quicker than the general economy. Eight percent of solar jobs in the nation are held by veterans, to a greater extent than in the general economy.

Solar power is a wellspring of energy in the U.S., and as the cost of solar keeps falling, all signs highlight it is turning into a significantly larger piece of the U.S. energy supply. That is stimulating news for the economy and the climate. Troy Helming, in his book ‘The Clean Power Revolution: How to Boost the Economy by $1 Trillion per year with clean energy’ reinforces the role of solar and wind energy in boosting the economic growth of the nation.

The good news is, anyone can save a ton of money and improve the health of themselves, their family, and the planet without making lifestyle changes. And one can sleep better at night knowing that the clean energy choices they’re making are stimulating the economy by helping to create new, good-paying, American jobs.

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