Solar power is going mainstream! So they have said, anyway, for about 30 years now.

This time, however, there are good reasons to believe the hype. As Adam keeps reminding us, solar is incredibly popular — huge majorities favor it, and favor gov’t incentives to support it. Prices have been falling for years, orders are up, politicians on both sides of the aisle sing its praises, and the California Solar Initiative promises to kickstart economies of scale.

All of this good news is summarized in an Austin American-Statesman piece that has me downright … what’s the word? … opti… optim… [cough] hopeful.

Here are some interesting stats tacked to the bottom of the piece:

Top solar states
California, 70 percent
New Jersey, 18 percent
New York, 3 percent
Arizona, 2 percent
Nevada, 3 percent
Massachusetts, 1 percent
All other states, 3 percent

Solar scorecard
85% — Decrease in the price of solar cell modules between 1982 and 2006.
72% — Increase in shipments of photovoltaic systems between 2004 and 2005.
33% — Increase in grid-connected solar installations in the United States in 2006.
59% — Portion of solar installations in the past 5 years that were tied to conventional public electricity grids.
40%-60% — Typical decrease in monthly home energy bills using a standard-size home solar energy system.
11-15 years — Time it takes for a typical home solar energy system to pay for itself with the cost savings from lower energy bills (depending on size, location, availability of government rebates and tax credits).

In other solar news, federal tax credits for solar will expire in nine months unless they’re renewed by Congress. Here’s a press release from about it. Write your legislator.