Nancy Hartsoch, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales, SolFocus
The most challenging issue in the global market today may best be characterized as “sustainability.” With dramatic cuts in the pricing of solar panels due to oversupply and strategic country focuses on market dominance, the solar market has grown rapidly. This is very good from the standpoint of higher amounts of clean electricity and thus positive impact on climate change issues.
However, the question remains whether this is a sustainable market since product is being sold at next to no profit margin, each week multiple companies are going out of business, and many of the doomed companies have been provided opportunities via government incentives and tax payer investment. All of these factors have created an environment of skepticism about the real value of solar as a mainstream source of energy. What needs to be done to make the market sustainable?
First, we need to continue to advance solar technology, striving to get more and more electricity from less equipment. As in other tech sectors, solar companies must stay dedicated to commercialization today, and advancement for the future. Without this focus, the industry will in the longer term be challenged by available capital to manufacture systems, and land constraints for deployment.
Second, projects need to be financed, and the private sector for the near term is extremely conservative. The government can play a big role, not via direct subsidies, but by enabling solar deployments through low-cost, available capital. A “Green Bank” would bring significant sustainability. Without that then solar manufacturers are going to have to continue to be creative with insurance products and the like to remove the risk from investors, or the dollars will not continue to flow.
Last, solar companies should look at a global footprint — the sun knows no boundaries and companies need to follow that lead, which may increase the cost of doing business, but can dramatically reduce risk and market uncertainty.
Nancy Hartsoch is the senior vice president of marketing and sales for SolFocus. Nancy also serves as the chairperson of the CPV Consortium, an international group charged with advancing CPV technology worldwide. Her 25 years of experience includes solar and semiconductors with companies including Acer Laboratories, American Microsystems, Pacific Technology Group and Appian.
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