Americans overwhelmingly support the use and development of solar energy and federal investments in the solar industry, according to a new national poll. These and other findings were reported today in the 2011 SCHOTT Solar Barometer™, a nationally representative survey conducted annually by independent polling firm Kelton Research.
For the fourth consecutive year, the survey found that about nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) think it is important for the United States to develop and use solar power. Support for solar is strong across the political spectrum with 90 percent of Independents, 80 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats agreeing that it is important for the United States to develop and use solar power.
The survey also found that Americans want federal investments in solar. More than eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) support federal tax credits and grants for the solar industry similar to those that traditional sources of energy like oil, natural gas and coal have received for decades. Almost three-quarters of Republicans agree (72 percent), as well as 87 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Independents.
Furthermore, when asked to select an energy source they would financially support if they were in charge of U.S. energy policy, 39 percent of Americans chose solar over other sources such as natural gas (21 percent), wind (12 percent), nuclear (9 percent) and coal (3 percent). Among Independents, solar is more than twice as popular as any other energy source (43 percent to 20 percent for natural gas).
“In this tough economy, Americans want to see solutions coming from Washington,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “For members of Congress trying to find ways to create jobs, solar is a win-win. Thanks in part to proven policy successes like the 1603 Treasury Program, the solar industry has doubled its workforce in the last two years and now employs more than 100,000 Americans at 5,000 businesses spanning every state. And solar enjoys overwhelming support across all political affiliations – Republicans, Democrats and Independents. It’s clear that solar has the strong support of the American people. Now it needs the support of U.S. policymakers in extending job-creating policies like the 1603 program to make sure solar continues to work for America.”
Despite weeks of news coverage about the bankruptcy of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, the survey shows that Americans’ support for solar remains strong. In fact, the vast majority of Americans support solar manufacturing in the United States. Eight out of 10 (82 percent) think it is important for the federal government to support U.S. solar manufacturing, and a majority of Independent voters (51 percent) think it is “extremely important.”
The poll also found that Americans prefer to buy solar-made products. A majority of Americans (51 percent) would be more likely to purchase a product if they knew it was made using solar energy. Consumers in the key age demographic of 18 to 44 years old are even more likely to buy solar-made products (61 percent).
One challenge that the solar industry faces is educating the public about how they can become consumers of solar power. Despite the cost of solar modules decreasing by 30 percent since the beginning of 2010 and residential solar leasing models that allow consumers to go solar with no upfront cost, 48 percent of Americans cited cost as their biggest concern with choosing solar energy.
“The fourth annual Solar Barometer shows that Americans overwhelmingly understand the benefits and continue to support solar energy for our country,” said Tom Hecht, President, Sales, Marketing and Business Development, SCHOTT Solar PV, Inc. “What I find especially encouraging is that eight out of ten people support American solar manufacturing. A growing domestic solar industry will create more jobs and make solar more attractive as a clean energy source. Prices for solar continue to decline and those who currently own solar systems are earning a strong return on their investment. High quality solar energy systems are also extremely reliable, which is why companies like SCHOTT Solar back their modules with warranties of up to 25 years.”
“For the fourth year in a row, an overwhelming majority of Americans agree on the importance of solar power,” said Rachel Bonsignore, Associate Director, Kelton Research. “This year’s survey continues the trend of remarkably consistent support for solar.”
Question 1: If you were in charge of U.S. energy policy and could choose to provide financial support in one of the following energy sources during your term in office, which would you choose?
• Thirty-nine percent chose solar, compared to 21 percent for natural gas, 12 percent for wind, 9 percent for nuclear and 3 percent for coal. Among Independents, solar is more than twice as popular as any other energy source (43 percent to 20 percent for natural gas).
Question 2: How important do you think it is for the U.S. to develop and use solar power?
• Nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) think it is “extremely important” or “somewhat important.”
• Ninety percent of Independents, 80 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats agree with this statement.
Question 3: How important do you think it is for the federal government to support U.S. solar manufacturing right now?
• Eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) think it is “extremely important” or “somewhat important.”
• A majority of Independent voters (51 percent) think it is “extremely important.”
Question 4: Would you be more, less or about as likely to buy a product that you knew was made using solar energy?
• A majority of Americans (51 percent) would be more likely to buy solar products.
• Sixty-one percent of consumers in the key age demographic of 18 to 44 years old would be more likely.
Question 5: Which of the following best describes the biggest concern you would have with choosing solar energy?
• Cost was the most common concern (48 percent), followed by reliability (25 percent), uncertainty about the benefits (9 percent) and aesthetics (3 percent).
Question 6: The federal government currently gives subsidies, such as federal tax credits and grants, to traditional sources of energy, such as oil, natural gas and coal. How likely would you be to support similar subsidies for solar energy?
• More than eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) would be “extremely likely” or “somewhat likely” to support federal investments in solar. Seventy-two percent of Republicans support federal investments, as well as 87 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Independents.
The SCHOTT Solar Barometer Survey was conducted by Kelton Research between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, 2011, using an email invitation and an online survey of 1,000 Americans. SCHOTT Solar (schottsolar.com), one of the trend-setting manufacturers of solar energy technologies, and the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) commissioned the survey. Quotas are set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. In this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3.1 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.