The People Have Spoken: Solar, Wind Are the Energy of the Future

clean energyIt’s becoming increasingly clear that the energy of the future is going to be renewable — from individuals to big businesses, people are getting behind solar and wind in a big way. And while it will still take a little bit of time for the powers that be — the backwards-thinking governments, utilities and fossil-fuel companies — to come around ot this new reality, a new study from CleanEdge highlights the clean energy future we’re approaching.

After surveying 1,400 U.S. homeowners, the clean technology research group, with help from Solar City and polling group Zogby Analytics, found that solar and wind are the two energy sources that people believe are most important to the country’s energy future.

Solar power received the most support at 50 percent, with wind following at 42 percent. Coal received just 8 percent support, while natural gas earned 33 percent of votes.

This support for renewable energy crosses all demographic boundaries: Whether the respondents were Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals, city and rural residents, youth or old, solar power was the top choice for our future energy needs.

“There’s a misconception that the nation is divided on its attitudes toward clean energy, but our research shows this to be false,” Clean Edge managing director, and the lead author of report, Ron Pernick said in a statement. “There is broad support for renewables across the political spectrum. Opposition to solar fees charged by utilities, for example, is higher among Republicans (66 percent) than Democrats (53 percent).”

It’s important to note that survey results are a far cry from reality. It’s easy to say that everyone wants a clean grid, and that they take the environment into consideration with their every decision, and so on. But it’s an entirely different project to make that wish into reality. So while this survey paints a great picture of the strength of the support for solar and wind, it’ll take more than surveys to keep the solar boom going.

The other interesting part of the CleanEdge report’s findings are why homeowners choose to go solar. In the earlier days of solar adoption, having a beneficial impact on the planet was a main reason for going solar, with energy independence as an added benefit. But as solar installations get cheaper and easier and the big tent of solar homeowners has gotten bigger, saving money has become the main driver of the solar revolution, and CleanEdge’s findings back this up.

Saving money was far and away the most important reason people installed solar at home, as the chart below shows. This even beats out no-money-down solar plans and locking in steady electric rates for the next 20 years. Only 35 percent of respondents cited “reducing my environmental impact” as the main reason to install solar panels.

The CleanEdge/Solar City report looks at much more than just solar and wind, so be sure to check out the full findings. And the groups are hosting a webcast later this month to dig more deeply into the report — we’ll have more to share after that event.

Solar rainbow photo CC-licensed by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr.

Matthew Wheeland
Author: Matthew Wheeland

Matthew Wheeland is the editor of He has been an environmental journalist for nearly 15 years, covering everything from farming to green chemistry to corporate sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @MattWheeland.

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