Tor Valenza, Founder, UnThink Solar
As the founder of a solar marketing and communications firm, I know this may sound self-serving, but I sincerely believe the solar industry's lack of aggressive, bold marketing/PR/communications to the public and to politicians is our biggest challenge today, and here's why:
Solar PV (and thermal) works and is now competitive in many markets in the U.S. and the world. With solar PV's current price trajectory of installed costs at $2 to $4/watt in the near future, now is the time to build more public attention for solar coming into its own as a reliable and affordable energy source for residents, businesses, and utilities.
Despite our exponential growth, the solar industry is still under constant attack from fossil fuel interests portraying themselves as "not that bad," "clean," and a "provider of jobs," especially in the United States. We need to poke holes in green-washed fossil fuel PR campaigns and show that solar is an affordable and reliable energy solution today, not just tomorrow.
Better PV technology is not necessarily the answer. If solar PV efficiencies stayed at 15-21 percent at its current cost trajectory, we could still provide a significant amount of solar power to the world and displace dirty fossil fuels.
I know the above may sound simple and self-serving from a solar marketer, but I'm a solar advocate first, and I genuinely want our global solar industry and technology to grow quickly and profitably. But to do so, we must overcome being outspent by fossil fuel lobbyists and green-washing PR firms that lull the public into believing old solar myths.
In summary, the solution to today's challenges is more effective, creative, widespread solar communications and education. That, in due course, will lead to rapid growth and scale, lowering prices, increasing profits, and eventually funding the technology innovations of tomorrow.
As founder of UnThink Solar, a strategic communications firm, and a solar advocate for more than 25 years, Tor Valenza a.k.a. "Solar Fred" helps solar companies reach solar customers through innovative messaging, branding, and social media communications. His firm’s clients have included AEE Solar, Free Hot Water, Panasonic, SolarCity, and others. His RenewableEnergyWorld.com blog offers free solar marketing advice.