Solarites or Solar-lites? The Revolution from A to Z

PV and ME presents the results of the first annual — and grossly incomplete — ABC’s of great and not-so great Solar Revolutionaries.

Solar Revolutionary Ranking
Low  — 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 —  High

Arnold Schwarzenegger Austrian Bodybuilder, Hollywood Actor and former California Governor


Photo: Jumanji Solar

Only in America could political office be won by a muscle-bound European known for his brawn and questionable acting skills. But instead of callously kicking sand on solar technology,  Schwarzenegger gave it a big, sunny bear hug, helping to make California the solar star of the USA. “Asking whether large solar power plants are appropriate in [California’s] Mojave Desert,” the Terminator once said, “is likewondering whether subways make sense in New York City.” Hasta la vista, big oil!
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 8

Barack Obama US President


In 2011 with his backing of the soon-to-be bankrupt Solyndra Inc., the start-up company that wanted to make strange cylindrical modules, the Obama administration wasted millions of taxpayers dollars. Obama’s goof gave solar a lot of bad press. Still, Obama didn’t give up completely. Solar’s success story, largely a result of the 30% Investment Tax Credit — set up under the administration of Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush and scheduled to reduce to 10% at the end of 2016 just as he is leaving office — led to a photo op in Utah on April 3. Taking advantage of solar’s good installed numbers, the president stood in front of a 211 kW ground-mounted system (certainly not very big by solar farm standards), singing solar’s employment-creating praises. “What I’m doing here today is to highlight the fact that the solar industry is actually adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy,” Obama said, announcing a goal of training 75,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.” Perhaps doing his bit to support the industry, Obama installed a 6.3 kW system on the White House roof in 2014 – naturally using American-made panels. But in May he also approved drilling in Alaska’s pristine wilderness. Go figure.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 5

Chief SeattleHead of an American Indian Tribe in the US state of Washington

Chief_seattle - photobucket

Some Native American tribes have welcomed big solar to their reservations, while others have fought it, worried about the desecration of sacred land. But in either case, land is the key. Whether filtered through translations or embellished through time, the noted quotes of Chief Seattle, a tribal leader in the mid-1800s, put that special relationship into perspective. “Earth does not belong to us, we belong to earth,” Chief Seattle once reportedly said. “If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water,“ he elaborated at another time, “how can you buy them?” While some in the solar industry might balk at such a non-profit perspective, the chief’s sentiments certainly ring true for true Solarites.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 9

Dalai LamaThe 14th Successor to the Title of Spiritual Tibetan Leader

Dalailama1_20121014_4639 - copyright Photo by Christopher Michel @ChrisMichel

Photo: Christopher Michel @ChrisMichel

His observation of the lack of progress at the United Nations climate change talks in 2010 had a decidedly Buddhist sensitivity. “These [climate-related] tragedies are not natural disasters,” the Dalai Lama said, according to the multimedia website Earth Project. “They are human disasters. They are man-made tragedies. It is our own carelessness.” The solitude of Buddhism and the quiet power of a PV system seem to be a good fit.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 8

Elon MuskBillionaire Businessman

Dublin, Wednesday 31th October 2013: Pictured at the The Web Summit 2013, RDS. Photo by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Photo: Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Musk, the owner of the electric vehicle maker Tesla, a huge factory for lithium-ion batteries, probably the biggest PV installer in the world with SolarCity (although his leasing model has raised some eyebrows) and (the not yet solar-powered) reusable rockets at SpaceX, is unquestionably the loudest spokesperson for a solar-based economy. “What most people know, but don’t realize they know,” Musk said at aTED Talk in March 2013, “is that the world is almost entirely solar-powered already. If the sun wasn’t there, we’d be a frozen ice ball at three degrees Kelvin.”
PV and ME
solar revolutionary ranking: 8

Fred FlintstoneWorking-class Cartoon Caveman

Yabba - paint3

Stone-age solar

The original energy conservationist, Flintstone led the way towards the eventual wisdom of solar. He used foot-powered cars, dinosaur construction cranes, bird airplanes, even mastodon vacuum cleaners. Not a fossil fuel to be found, unless you consider that millions of years later, all of those living beings – including Fred – would power modern day life in the form of coal, oil and gas. “‘Yabba Dabba Doo,’” Flintstone once explained in an interview with the Bedrock Daily Slate, “is stone-age English for ‘isn’t the idea of a PV system great?’”
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 9

George HarrisonFamous Beatle


While Harrison certainly didn’t write his song “Here Comes the Sun” to promote PV – he once said he composed it in a moment of Beatle frustration while sitting in Eric Clapton’s garden – it certainly has become the anthem for solar, both thermal and photon based. “Little darling,” he sang, “It seems like years since it’s been clear, here comes the sun, here comes the sun.”
PV and ME revolutionary ranking: 9

Hillary Rodham Clinton Likely Democratic Party Candidate for US presidency


In her campaign gambit to become the Democratic Party presidential candidate in 2008, Clinton made a promise to reach 25% of electricity production from renewable energy. “As President,” she pledged during a Nov. 2007 speech on climate change, “I will make the production tax credit for wind and solar permanent. No more guessing what you’re going to get as you move forward with your production.” But seven years later at a Sept. 2014 National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, natural gas was her energy of choice. Unlike her husband’s former vice president Al Gore (VP is PV backwards), who created the influential documentary on climate change An Inconvenient Truth, would President Hillary Clinton turn her earlier solar promise into a convenient lie?
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 7

Issac NewtonPhysicist and Mathematician


Newton, the scientist of apocryphal apple-falling fame in the late-1600s, was by far not the first to postulate that the Earth was not the center of things. Still his laws of motion and gravity did help cement the fact that our “spaceship” revolves around the Sun — a “solar revolution” of the first order.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 9

Jimmy Carter US President


Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

During Carter’s administration, with the country deep in the Arab oil embargo, the then-president made the decision to put solar thermal panels on the White House roof. “A generation from now,” Carter noted, “this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.” When Ronald Reagan first sat behind the Oval office desk, one of the first moves of his new presidency was to order the removal of the panels. Not until Obama took over the hot seat was solar back (see under “B” above). Democrats 2, Republicans 1.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 9

Kofi AnnanFormer Secretary-General of the United Nations

During the Ghanaian’s five-year tenure heading the United Nations, except for climate change conferences, any idea of a United Nations of Solar was not on his agenda. Only in his post-UN career did a yen for solar take root in the form of aid for the survivor’s of a 2013 typhoon in the Philippines. “The Solar for Philippines campaign brings light into darkness in a sustainable and energy efficient way…. It may well prove to be a viable solution to people facing similar hardships in other places around the world.” Maybe in the Fiji Islands, where in Feb. 2014 many homes were submerged. The name of the weather catastrophe?Cyclone Kofi.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 3

Larry Hagman – TV Film Star and Face of SolarWorld


The former personification of big oil as the tycoon JR Ewing in the TV seriesDallas, Hagman took a 180 degree turn in role to represent module maker SolarWorld in ten advertising spots. The actor, who died in 2012, made the company’s slogan “Shine, baby, shine” well known. It was a takeoff on the 2012 Republican candidate for vice president, Sarah Palin (later one of the founders of the extreme conservative movement, the Tea Party) who’s motto for getting at the oil reserves in protected areas in her home state of Alaska, was “drill, baby drill.”
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 8 (Palin minus 27)

Mahatma Gandhi –  Independence Leader in India

Mahatma_Gandhi_Ghp - Viratk

Photo: Viratk

The Hindu lawyer who fought for the independence of India from the British with non-violence and for the rights of the poor was honored for his life’s work with the naming of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Energy and Development. It has an entire department for_promoting research and implementation of off-grid projects.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 8

Narendra Modi Indian Prime Minister


Photo: José Cruz/Agência Brasil

The head of the Indian state of Gujarat, the country’s most solarized state, Modi brought high hopes for India’s National Solar Mission with its goal of 20 GW by 2020 following his election as prime minister in May 2014. Not surprisingly, the wheels in the highly-bureaucratic country have been moving slowly. The question remains: will Modi be able to speed things up to meet India’s grand goals?
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 7

scar the GrouchGrumpy Muppet


More suited to the oil industry than solar.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 0

Paul MacCready Solar Airplane Designer

Paul_maccready NASA photo by Tom Tschida

NASA photo by Tom Tschida

In 1981, nearly three-and-a-half decades before the Solar ImpulsePV-powered airplane took off on its round-the-world flight attempt, another PV-cell endowed flying machine, the Solar Challenger, not only succeeded in being the first solar-powered aircraft to cross the English Channel, it did so without battery storage. The plane was designed by aeronautical engineer Paul MacCready. “We began making a solar-powered plane because we felt solar power was going to be so important for the country and the world,” MacCready recalled during a TED Talk in 2003, four years before his death. How right he was.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 10

Q–Hermann ScheerFather of the Feed-in Tariff


Photo: Armin Kübelbeck, CC-BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons

This German politician is listed under “Q”, the symbol for “electric charge,” because that is what he did for solar – he charged the electrical hell out it. Without Scheer, there might not have been a solar revolution. It was his insight and push for a financial model, the infamous feed-in tariff, that kick-started Germany and in turns the industry and the markets and the deployment of solar. “My general advice to solar supporters is: Don’t leave the introduction of solar energy to the existing energy system and its economy,” said Scheer in his acceptance speech for the World Solar Prize in 1998, “because this is like leaving a non-smoking campaign in the hands of the tobacco industry.” Later he added: “The remaining question is not how high are the costs for solar introduction, but how big are the social costs for its postponement.”
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 110

Reiner LemoineCo-Founder of Q-Cells and Solon

Taking advantage of Germany’s solar heydays, Lemoine helped start up module maker Solon AGand later cell manufacturer Q-Cells. In 2005, a year before his death, he shared the title of Entrepreneur of the Year. The Reiner Lemoine Lemoine Foundation Institute was set up in 2010 to further research in renewables.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 9

Shinzō AbePrime Minister of Japan



Shortly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, Japan shut down 52 of its 54 atomic powered plants with a plan toward becoming nuclear free. But a July 2013 landslide victory for the Liberal Democratic Party, landed its pro-nuclear candidate in the driver’s seat. While the fortunes of solar in Japan, once the world leader in installed PV capacity, took an upswing after the devastating event, Abe has made it clear that instead going nuclear-free, Japan was going to pursue a nuclear course. In April, a small drone carrying a tiny quantity of radioactive material landed on the prime minister’s solar-covered office roof, most likely a protest at Abe’s plans to reopen a new nuclear plant in the southwest of Japan.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 0.5

T. Boone Pickens — Billionaire US Financier

Thomas_Boone_Pickens - Steve Jurvetson

Photo: Steve Jurvetson

While professing a yen for renewables — mainly wind, but solar as well — to “build a bridge to the future,” billionaire US financier T. Boone Pickens must be thinking about a very long bridge in his “blueprint to reduce OPEC oil dependence.” Indeed his “Pickens Plan” says that the current cost of renewables like wind and solar power means that “we’re stuck with oil and natural gas for the next 20 or 30 years.” Boone’s alternative?  Natural gas, which he considers a renewable form of energy.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 3

UlyssesLatin Name for Odysseus of Greek Mythology


Solar, like Ulysses on his odyssey, has had to – will continue to – face many battles.In the poem of the same name, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ends with Ulysses weakened, “but strong in will, To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” A call to arms for the likes of solar.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 6

Vladimir Putin – President of Russia



In an Oct. 2014 story, the Russian new agency Tass reported that Putin praised a new 5 MW PV installation in the Republic of Atali — via a video conference call. But while such news may make the avid wrestler look like he is fighting for solar, he remains an oil-and-gas warrior to the core. For more on Putin, see the letter “O”.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 2

William Hirshman Executive Editor of PV and ME


Considered by himself to be the best thing to happen to solar in this century, Hirshman says that “people who don’t follow my PV and ME blog and ‘Like’ it and ‘Tweet’ it and ‘Share’ it are big, stupid wusses.”
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 10 (minus 8 for shameless self-promotion)

Xi Jinping —  Chinese President and General Secretary of China’s Communist Party


Since taking over the top spot in China’s government, Xi Jinping has continued to lead the country to the head of the solar class – both in production and installed capacity, all of this despite the hassles of trade sanctions with the US and Europe. While true that by using solar China can add extra needed power to run the factories that has led to the country’s economic boom, Xi is undoubtedly aware that China also needs to do something with its overcapacity of modules, thus becoming its own best customer.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 8

Yogi BerraBaseball Player known for Unintentionally Mangling the English Language


Upon hearing that the words “solar” and “PV” could be used interchangeably, Berra reportedly remarked: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 7

Zuck” Founder and CEO of Facebook


Photo: Jean-Frédéric

On March 28, as part of Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference, Zuck — as Zuckerberg is known to some friends — announced on his social medium the successful testing of an unmanned, solar-powered aircraft that can beam internet access “down to people from the sky.” Zuck seems to be face-booking the future.
PV and ME solar revolutionary ranking: 5

Add your recommendations for more A to Z Solar Revolutionaries — with ranking — in the comments box.

The above post was inspired by a Question Suggestion from PV and ME follower Philippe Hartley.

Next: PV and ME Question #7

“Can you write a solar tweet without using the ‘S’ or ‘P’ words?”

#pvandme Twitter may not be everyone‘s absolutely favorite way of communicating but it certainly poses a challenge for someone in saying what you need to say in as few words as possible — to get to the point with brevity and yet express something meaningful forces you to be concise but insightful. PV and ME challenges you to try and write a meaningful TwitterSubmit a tweet about solar in 140 characters or less but making sure that you do it withoutusing the words “solar,” “photovoltaics” or “PV.”

The resulting 140-character tweet example:
#pvandme Twitter forces you to be concise but insightful. Submit a tweet in 140 characters or less without “solar,” “photovoltaics” or “PV.”

If you do not have a twitter account, click here.

Deadline for submission: Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Publication date: Monday, June 1, 2015


Click here to submit your own Question Suggestions for a future PV and ME post.

This blog was originally published on PV and ME and was republished with permission.

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William Hirshman, a former associate editor at the solar magazine PHOTON International, publishes PV and ME -- posing solar questions rarely asked -- at

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