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On February 23, 2006 the Bush Administration announced a plan to accelerate the widespread commercialization of clean solar energy technologies throughout the United States by 2015.

Dubbed "The Solar America Initiative (SAI)," the goal is to give the nation's electricity supply options while reducing Americans' dependence on fossil fuels. Only time will tell the impact solar technologies will have on builders and the real estate industry as a whole.

"As our nation's economy grows we will need to find ways to diversify our energy mix, and solar is one promising way to do that," said Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman. "By harnessing the energy from the sun, we can power homes and businesses in an environmentally clean way."

To encourage participation in solar technologies, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released its "Guide to Federal Tax Credits for Solar Energy. The document details federal solar tax incentives enacted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that allow homeowners a tax credit of 30 percent for qualifying solar electric (PV) or solar water heating expenditures, up to a maximum of $2,000 per technology.

For businesses, the investment tax credit increased from 10 to 30 percent on qualified solar property expenditures, with no cap on the credit amount. These incentives apply to equipment placed in service during 2006-2007.

"The passage of the solar tax credits was an historic moment for solar energy development in the United States," said Rhone Resch, SEIA President. "Already, the tax credits are encouraging states and private industry to invest in solar power, fueling market growth and making solar more affordable for more Americans. Under current law, only consumer spending in 2006 and 2007 qualifies for the new solar tax incentives. However, with a long-term energy crisis already having a significant economic drain on the U.S., the solar industry is urging Congress to extend the solar tax credits as a practical energy solution that can deliver immediate results."

"SEIA will be working this year with our champions in Congress to extend the tax credits through 2012 or later," said Mr. Resch. "We have an opportunity to create a thriving solar market here in the U.S., but clearer policy support from Washington is needed."

Solar technologies use the sun's energy and light to provide heat, light, hot water, electricity, and even cooling, for homes, businesses, and industry. Photovoltaics, or PV solar cells, directly convert sunlight into electricity and are made of semi conducting materials. The simplest cells power watches and calculators while more complex systems can light houses and provide power to the electric grid.

PV cells are typically combined into modules that hold about 40 cells. About 10 of these modules are mounted in PV arrays. PV arrays can be used to generate electricity for a single building or, in large numbers, for a power plant. A power plant can also use a concentrating solar power system, which uses the sun's heat to generate electricity. The sunlight is collected and focused with mirrors to create a high-intensity heat source. This heat source produces steam or mechanical power to run a generator that creates electricity.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is the national trade Association of solar energy manufacturers, dealers, distributors, contractors, installers, architects, consultants, and marketers. They work to expand the use of solar technologies in the global marketplace.

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