Solar Power’s Growing Pains

<a href="">Worklife Siemens</a>/Flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Solar power in the United States faces an uncertain road ahead, despite the sizeable gains it made last year. Spurred by federal stimulus funds, the US market jumped from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6 billion in 2010 according to a new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. But the country fell further behind European solar leaders like Germany and Spain, whose governments have their own aggressively funded programs. And, as MoJo‘s Kiera Butler explains, the speedy expansion of US solar into California’s Mojave Desert is raising important concerns about ecosystem damage.

Those concerns have put environmental groups in a tricky spot between their support for renewable energy and habitat protection. Most of the Mojave projects are still moving forward, but lawsuits from green and tribal groups could trip up some of them. The near-term future of solar power in the US will also depend on whether President Obama’s stimulus money keeps flowing. For now, energy companies have until the end of the year to qualify for funding. Meanwhile, some solar advocates are suggesting alternatives like installing panels on urban rooftops. New Jersey, which ranks second behind California in solar power generation, has made progress with that strategy.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend