H.R. 3585, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, was designed to identify and plan for solar technology needs, and to provide $2.2 billion over five years to schools and laboratories for solar research and development. The bill directed the Secretary of Energy to award grants for manufacturing to industry-led solar technology research, development, and demonstration programs. The design of the “road map" in the bill was based on the National Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, which was considered to be instrumental in helping semiconductor technology advance rapidly over the previous twenty years.
Rep. Gordon (D-Tenn), who chairs the House Science and Technology Committee, was leading the support for the measure. He described H.R. 3585 as a bill that “establishes a comprehensive road mapping process for solar technology research, development, and demonstration activities conducted by the federal government in partnership with industry.” Gordon noted that H.R. 3585 had been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Solar Energy Industries Association, and Intel.
Rep. Hall (R-TX) was leading the Republican side during the debate on the bill. He first said that Republican Members are “supportive of solar energy, and we have so voted--most of the people on my side of the aisle. We certainly see the great potential it has to be a contributor of energy to our constituents.” He then added that Republicans had “some lingering concerns” about H.R. 3585. The first concern he noted was that the bill authorized $2.25 billion over 5 years, which Hall described as “not an insignificant amount, especially in our current financial climate.” He suggested that investment tax credits for solar energy “or an easing of burdensome regulations would be a better way to encourage the development and use of solar energy.”
A second concern Hall expressed was that the bill directed the Energy Secretary to spend too much of the funding on the research, development, and demonstration set forth by a third party committee focused on the “road map” described in the bill. He said that this provision “leaves little flexibility for innovations that may be viable and yet not included as part of the road map.” Hall also expressed a concern that the rules for establishing the membership of this committee may not result in “an open and transparent (deliberation) process.” He also noted that the Department of Energy had advised the House Science and Technology Committee that it “shares some of these same concerns.”
Rep. Bartlett (R-MD) responded to Rep. Hall by saying: “I am a fiscal conservative as well as a scientist and engineer. I have studied and used solar energy for more than 40 years. This bill will not spend too much money. Our country has fallen way behind. The General Accountability Office has documented that the funding level in this bill only begins to reverse 20 years of underinvestment by the federal government in the research and development of solar power--a domestic alternative and a renewable source of energy.”
The legislation passed by a vote of 310-106. Two hundred and forty-seven Democrats and sixty-three Republicans voted “aye”. All one hundred and six “nay” votes were cast by Republicans. As a result, the House approved and sent on to the Senate the bill authorizing a five-year $2.2 billion program for solar technology.