One estimate made by engineers and scientists is that one-fourth of all the energy used in the United States is consumed in heating buildings. Billions of Btu's from coal, oil, gas, and electricity are consumed every heating season. We are depleting our supply of readily useable fuels at an ever increasing rate. Fortunately, future generations will have an energy source, which, every three days, equals the combined energy in all the available coal, oil, and gas in the world. That energy source is the SUN.
The amount of potentially useful energy is staggering, but logical. Since all forms of energy originate from the sun, the basic source is, by necessity, a reservoir of almost unimaginable size.
Until a few years ago, there was little, if any, general interest in solar applications to heating and cooling. Today, however, there are many solar energy research and development activities in the heating and air-conditioning industry.
Solar assisted heating is not a new idea. Solar heaters were used in the Army camps of Southern California during World War I, and solar water heaters received at least some use in some southern states during the 1930's.
But, prior to 1972, solar energy research applied to this industry was essentially privately funded. Now, federal funds are being allocated for solar programs and have had an impact on research and development activities.
A joint National Science Foundation - National Aeronautical and Space Administration report published in 1972 is generally credited with having had the most public and political impact on bringing renewed attention to the potentials of solar energy.
With this endorsement and others, Congress passed the ERDA Bill authorizing the establishment of the Energy Research and Development Administration. Among other things, ERDA replaced the old Atomic Energy Commission. On October l, 1977, the Department of Energy (DOE) assumed the overall responsibility regarding energy.
Compared to the meager funding that was obtained by a few solar energy pioneers, there is now relatively substantial federal money earmarked for solar energy research, development, and demonstration projects.
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