"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
--George Bernard Shaw
Despite the recession, I’m more optimistic than ever that solar PV will finally become a main stream form of clean, distributed power. But we're not there yet.
So, right now, I want to encourage everyone in the solar PV industry, especially module manufacturers, to push past the tipping point. How? I'll get to that.
First, let me give you 10 reasons why I believe we’re right at or just before the Solar Main Stream Tipping Point.
1. The 30% Federal tax credit, which is not going away until 2016, providing the industry with some stability.
2. The growing number of states and municipalities and utilities offering some kind of significant rebate or tax credit.
3. A Presidential administration and a Congress that is (mostly) pro-clean energy and looking to clean tech to create a new green economy with green jobs.
4. The passage of ACES in the House and the optimism that some kind of carbon reduction legislation will finally pass the full Congress in the next year. This will force more States to incentivize solar. Hello, Mississippi and Alabama.
5. The glut of solar PV on the market right now that is driving panel prices to its lowest per watt cost ever. Challenging for the industry, especially start ups, I know, but great for consumers who are investigating solar for the first time. To see an installed price, before rebates, at $6/DC watt in some markets, Wow. A year ago, I was amazed at $8/watt. Labor costs will set a floor to this at some point, but even if it were to remain at this level, it’s within reach for many solar consumers.
6. The growing number of innovative financing programs, including municipal financing, solar leases, and solar PPAs that reduce the up front costs and level the playing field for middle income home owners. Pioneers here include SolarCity, SunRun, and the public/private Connecticut Solar Lease program. For municipal loan programs, Renewable Funding and their CityFirst program started in Berkeley. Thanks to all of you for thinking outside of the box.
7. The growth of solar PV collective purchasing programs, such as 1bog.org. (Full disclosure: I work with one of 1bog’s flounders, Dave Llorens, at another company, SolarPowerRocks.com, but have been a fan of 1bog way before we ever met.)
8. The sold out classes at Solar Living Institute and Solar Energy International. There are more classes being offered there than ever, and all are usually filled way in advance, indicating a huge interest–and ability—from future solar PV workers. Also, a shout out to Boots on the Roof for their blog and social networking efforts, all of which is helping to educate people interested in the industry at no charge.
9. Solar PV companies such as SunPower actually advertising directly to consumers on the radio instead of leaving it up to the installers and integrators. Are other PV companies making the same commitment? Please let me know. (Full disclosure: My stock portfolio includes a total of 7 shares of SunPower. Even if this mention incredibly drove SunPower’s stock any higher, do the numbers on how rich 7 shares is going to make me. This mention is out of praise for their commitment to educate and reach out to residential consumers, not stock manipulation.)
10. I’m finally seeing more articles in the main stream press about all of these solar financing options mentioned above. Sadly, many are inaccurate about financials, relying on old data. But at least the reporters are noticing. I personally correct articles that I read, but I’m amazed when I hear from the reporter that no one else has made the same correction. Please. All it takes is an email.
Have I missed any other signs? Perhaps the growing interest in Feed-in-Tariffs and Renewable Portfolio Standards. Good for you, Vermont. Even if that’s all there is, these are certainly enough signs to show that solar is almost to the point where it becomes a normal consideration for any new home owner or builder.
So, where do we go from here? How do we shove this tipping point of solar affordability into a Main Street reality? More communication. More education. More creative media interaction and social networking. And finally, more individual and solar industry pressure on politicians.
If you agree with me, then firmly place your hand on the shoulder of this solar tipping point. Whatever communications you can contribute, especially if you're a PV manufacturer, please give a shove, if not a strong kick.
…Of course, if you don’t agree with me, then I hope you’ll contribute your thoughts in the comments below.
Thank you. Unthink Solar.
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