Jeffrey Owens of Show Me Solar shared his story with the Franklin County Democratic Central Committee last night.  Owens joined the military after 9/11 and was deployed to Iraq in May 2003.  Whether tongue in cheek or not, he told us that, in Iraq, he had “plenty of time in the sun” to think about what to do after the service.  Using the GI Bill, he earned a master’s degree in physics from Mizzou in order to learn as much as he could about solar energy.

After Prop C was passed last November requiring investor-owned utility companies in Missouri to start investing in alternative energy sources, Owens and his parents started a group called Show Me Solar.  

“Let the sun power your life one ray at a time”

Show Me Solar is a grassroots, non-profit public benefit organization operating in the state of Missouri. Our mission is to educate the general public about the benefits of solar living and to advocate for the increased use of solar energy in Missouri.

Missouri companies are supposed to produce 0.3% of the energy used from solar technology by 2021.  Owens said Missouri is behind other states, but we are making progress.  Show Me Solar is a 501 (c)3 organization and a chapter of the national group Solar Energy Industries Association.  That group can take part of the credit for recent passage of HR 3585 in the U.S. House.  (Of course, Reps. Akin and Leutkemeyer voted no, but that’s another story for another day.  Here is the basic gist of the bill:

Bill Summary:

H.R. 3585 establishes a comprehensive road-mapping process for solar technology research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities conducted by the federal government in partnership with the private sector, with a focus on the Department of Energy (DOE). The Secretary of Energy is also directed to award grants to carry out these programs on a merit-reviewed basis, and specifically to provide awards to industry-led consortia for RD&D in solar manufacturing.

The Secretary must appoint a Solar Technology Roadmap Committee, comprised of at least 11 members, within four months of enactment of the Act.

H.R. 3585 requires that the Committee create a Solar Technology Roadmap within eighteen months of enactment of the Act. The Roadmap will present the best current estimate of the near-term (up to 2 years), mid-term (up to 7 years), and long-term (up to 15 years) RD&D needs in solar technology. It must also provide direct guidance for solar technology RD&D activities supported by the federal government.

The Solar Technology Roadmap Act authorizes DOE to conduct at least 10 photovoltaic demonstration projects ranging from 1 to 3 megawatts in size and at least 3 but not more than 5 solar projects greater than 30 megawatts in size.

The bill authorizes $350 million for DOE to carry out these activities in FY 2011, rising to $550 million in FY 2015.

Lots of questions remain.  Where are the start-up companies in Missouri?  When will solar panels be available at an affordable cost to the average homeowner?  (Tax rebates are available.  A good source for info on that is Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.)