Michelle Greenfield, chief executive officer of Athens, Ohio-based Third Sun Solar, wrote an opinion column for the Akron Beacon Journal chronicling the industry's explosive growth and urging continued support by the federal government. Greenfiled writes:

More than 5,000 companies are in the U.S. solar energy value chain. The vast majority of these companies are small businesses, the engine of growth slowed by the economic downturn. My firm, Third Sun Solar, began as a mom-and-pop solar installation company in 2000, completing mostly small residential installations.

Third Sun Solar now has grown to 28 employees designing and installing megawatt-scale solar arrays for such clients as the Cincinnati Parks Department, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and the Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority. That’s the kind of growth this country needs.

And, defying the story line that America doesn’t make or export anything anymore, the American solar manufacturing sector is now a net exporter of solar materials and equipment on the order of $2 billion. We’re even a net exporter to China.

The solar industry is diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio. Growth in the industry has resulted in a total solar electric capacity of more than 3,100 megawatts (MW) — the energy it takes to power 630,000 homes, just 10,000 shy of the number of households in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus combined.

And as more solar energy has been produced, prices for consumers have come down dramatically. In less than two years, the price of solar panels alone has dropped 30 percent making solar an increasingly cost-effective option for American families and businesses.

The full column is available here.