IMG_1348.JPGRenewable energy lobbyists on Wednesday held a press conference to warn that the failure of Congress to extend a key financial incentive would be disastrous for the solar and wind industries. At the same time, IDC, a research firm, released a report predicting that the North American photovoltaic market will double in 2011.

So what gives?

What has the renewable energy industry worried is the expiration at year’s end of a Treasury program that lets developers take a cash grant to cover 30 percent of the cost of big solar, wind and geothermal projects in lieu of taking an existing investment tax credit.

Since most green energy companies have no profits to offset with the tax credit, the cash grant has become crucial to obtain financing to build multibillion-dollar solar power plants and wind farms.

“It’s simply the most important policy for continuing growth of renewable energy in the United States,” Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said Wednesday during a press conference.

While some of those projects are photovoltaic farms that install tens of thousands of solar panels like those found on residential roofs or on the ground in huge arrays, many are solar thermal power plants that use mirrors to heat liquids to create steam to drive an electricity-generating turbine.