I think Charles Dickens was describing the Solar Coaster in his introduction to “A Tale of Two Cities”:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
A combination of factors makes the solar industry so dynamic: rapid technological change, compelling environmental and energy problems, and inconsistent government policy. My first encounter with the solar boom cycle was a result of the Y2K frenzy as people rushed to install backup power systems. Then the Enron energy crisis hit California, driving electric rates up and spurring the growth of the solar industry. Solar panel prices steadily declined until we hit a worldwide shortage of polysilicon, driving prices up again.
Over the last 10 years the combination of state and federal incentives, coupled with production boom and bust cycles — then capped off with tariffs — have made it almost impossible to do any long-term planning in the industry. Just ask anyone about their wild rides at any of the former leading solar companies — AstroPower, SolarWorld, Solyndra, Sungevity, Akeena, SolarCity…the list goes on.
Nevertheless, energy and environmental trends are our friends when it comes to the long-term future of the solar industry. Does Charles Dickens have insight into what comes next for the solar industry? For more about the next dip on the Solar Coaster, Listen Up to the Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.
About the Energy Show
As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.
The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we’ll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices.
About Your Host
Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.
His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.
Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies. He’s been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.
This podcast was originally produced by Spice Solar and was presented here with permission.
Lead image credit: Patrick Breitenbach | Flickr