Poll: Solyndra Barely Dents Solar Support

Post-Solyndra, Americans still love solar power, according to a new poll from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) that shows just slight declines in the number of people approving of government support for the sector. This was the fourth year in a row the SEIA released the survey, sponsored by Schott Solar and conducted by the independent polling firm Kelton Research between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6.

The percentage of Americans saying it was important for the United States to develop and use solar did fall in the wake of the highly publicized Solyndra bankruptcy, but only a bit, from 94 to 89 percent. On the perhaps more telling question of which source of energy should receive financial support from the government, solar remained the most popular, backed by 39 percent of respondents – off from 45 percent in 2010. Natural gas surged into the second spot in the poll, gaining the support of 21 percent, while wind faded from 19 percent to 12 percent. Nuclear (9 percent) and coal (3 percent) again lagged.

SEIA solar poll

image via Shutterstock

The SEIA tried to leverage the poll results to promote – again – an extension of a key federal incentive program for solar. “Solar enjoys overwhelming support across all political affiliations – Republicans, Democrats and Independents,” Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, said in a statement. “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.”

It should be noted that the poll did not simply ask people if they supported incentives for solar. Instead, it asserted that “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,” and then asked respondents, “How likely would you be to support similar subsidies for solar energy?” To that question, solar received overwhelming support, with 82 percent saying they would be “extremely likely” or “somewhat likely” to support federal incentives – and even 72 percent of Republicans were on board there.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.