There’s much to keep an eye on in the realm of solar energy right now – and for those with a stake in the outdoor recreation industry, be it commercial or sentimental, some especially exciting developments are on the forefront. Thanks to a collaboration between multiple U.S. government departments, led by the Obama administration, solar power is about to be much more attainable – or so is the hope.

Announced in July, the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative aims to make solar power more accessible within households and communities across the country through measures targeting the innovative and financial challenges to investing in solar photovoltaic energy.

2015 was a record-breaking year for the quantity of solar energy used in the United States, but that’s not surprising; solar power use has continued to grow 60% every year of the last decade. 2006 saw under 200 megawatts’ worth of solar photovoltaic power installations, while 2016 is to see upwards of an estimated 2,500 megawatts’ worth of installations. Though solar energy use is exploding as a result of lower costs and greater awareness that solar reigns as the cleanest of all renewable energy sources, among other factors, there’s a lot more room for solar power to make a positive difference, and a lot of environmental harm to be abated by doing so.

The cornerstone of the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative is its goal to make 1 gigawatt (the equivalent of 1,000 megawatts) of solar energy available to all low- and moderate-income families by 2020. To achieve this, the initiative more specifically aims to make incorporating solar power into homes and communities more financially feasible; to educate public entities on how to make their communities more efficient through solar power; to encourage communities to take advantage of solar power; and to bolster the workforce of people interested in working in solar energy.

As you might imagine, moving toward renewable energy sources is good news for the outdoor recreation industry. It’s no secret that the $730 billion industry has been taking hits as the harmful effects of global warming manifest in ski resorts’ revenues that dwindle in pace with the ice and snow on their slopes, and scuba divers’ sights are unfortunate glimpses of bleached, dying coral.

Interested in hopping on the solar energy train as it continues to gain speed? Get an idea of what costs might look like for installing solar panels on your home or business here. Though solar panel installation expenses pay themselves off over time, the initial price tag still isn’t feasible for all consumers, nor do all consumers own a home in which they have the decision-making power to make a commitment as extreme as installing solar panels. Fear not – innovations like portable solar panels mean that solar energy can play a role in your outdoor adventuring. If you’re looking to do your part on the trails (or slopes, or shores, or whatever precious landscape happens to be the backdrop of your outdoor playground), check out or for accessories ranging from portable solar panels to solar lanterns to solar watches.

While the cost of powering a house or business with solar panels continues to decrease, catalysts like the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative and a settlement recently filed in pursuit of breaking down barriers to solar energy use in Colorado have good reason to be enthusiastically welcomed. Even with declining costs, installing solar panels on a home can carry a price tag of tens of thousands of dollars, which can vary significantly depending on influencers like a home’s number of daily hours of sun exposure and the yearly range of temperatures for its geographic location, as well as its level of energy use within a typical day.

The more that households and communities as a whole gravitate toward using renewable energy sources like solar, the more we protect – and hopefully reverse – the devastating effects of harmful energy byproducts like carbon dioxide and methane on our cherished landscapes. As the rate of clean energy use continues to grow, outdoor recreation as an industry can undoubtedly reap the benefits.

Now that you’ve finished this article and are just itching to appreciate the flora and fauna the Clean Energy Savings for All initiative is working to protect, lace up those sneakers and hit the trail!

- AJ MacDonald

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