Chris Tilley, CEO, SunLink
What is the greatest challenge facing the industry today? In a word: stability.
In order for the industry to reach its potential, we need to restore stability on a number of fronts. Volatility in module prices, the financial viability of key industry players, the cost and availability of debt and, in the U.S., tax equity, the forward value of REC’s and other key incentives have created an uncertain and difficult environment for project sponsors and hindered growth.
All of these factors will eventually stabilize, and, under nearly every foreseeable outcome, the solar industry will grow. The industry’s progress in bringing down costs has been spectacular, and the future is clearly bright in the medium to long term. Today’s challenge is how to manage through the near-term volatility and shorten its duration.
The key to this growth is to hold steady on growth. The political will to accomplish this stability is being tested in Europe by the debt crisis, in the U.S. by the unfortunate politicization of solar, and in Asia by the slowing economic growth.
Now, more than ever, the solar industry needs to remind political leaders of the long-term benefits of solar in addressing the serious problems we face: environmental degradation, global warming, energy security and sustainability. These issues will remain long after the current economic volatility subsides, and a robust solar industry will be an important part of the solution.
We also need to push for stability at the local level. Permitting requirements vary greatly from one jurisdiction to another. In the U.S., building codes lack sufficient detail in certain areas, such as its inadequate guidance on design for wind.
Wherever policy makers and permitting officials can add clarity, it will also bring stability. And a stable business foundation is, above all, the solution the industry needs.
Christopher Tilley, CEO of SunLink Corporation is a licensed engineer with wide range of international business experience. Chris holds and MSME from Purdue and an MBA from INSEAD. The effect of wind on solar arrays is a key area of interest with papers on the topic available at www.sunlink.com/researchanddevelopment.