Mass Investing in Solar

RE Outlook 2003As much as we may hate to admit it, Renewable Energy is still very much on the fringes, particularly in the financial world.

RE Outlook 2003 – January 28, 2003As much as we may hate to admit it, Renewable Energy is still very much on the fringes, particularly in the financial world. It was a bit over a month ago that I ran into a college acquaintance who is working in the financial sector. When I told her about my work she incredulously asked, “You mean you can make electricity from sunlight?” One of the huge BP Solar billboards touting “Beyond Petroleum” was hanging on a building behind her. I commend BP for trying to advance the idea of solar energy to the masses. But in this time of great corporate cynicism, most people aren’t buying it – they see a big oil company talking about investing in solar and they think it’s just another example of corporate green-washing. The thing is, renewables are ready for prime time. As a consultant to potential investors in solar energy, I have seen the opportunity. With the stock market a gut-wrenching roller coaster, some privately held solar companies are wonderful investments – for example: PowerLight, profitable and consistently growing at 100 percent per year. Sure there are companies that are having less success and new startups, some of which are scams. As with anything, investors need to employ qualified people to conduct due diligence. But renewables, in addition to being popular and good for the environment, can actually be attractive financially. Even those who can’t plunk down several million dollars to fund a company can win by investing in solar, simply by buying a system. SolarAccess.com ran a column by Chris Hall, managing director in the Global Banking Division of Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc., “Grid Connected PV as an Investment.” Hall installed solar on his home because it was a good, stable economic investment. This is true in many of the states where there are subsidies. If cost-to-consumer (with subsidies and new technology) can drop to $3 per W, then taking out a long-term low-interest loan to purchase a system can actually cost less than paying for utility power. The economic savings are actually more dramatic for solar water heating – which is cheaper to install and a more efficient use of the solar resource. Get the word out, and the day is soon when mainstream investors start talking about Renewable Energy. About the Author Jeff Perlman is an independent consultant with Capital E in solar investment and technology deployment. He holds a B.S. in Applied Physics from Yale University. He can be reached at jperlman@renewablestoday.com
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