SPI: Keynotes touch on jobs, values

Keynote speakers opening this week’s Solar Power International (SPI) show in Dallas pointed to the industry’s importance in US job creation, and offered an inspirational lesson in the value of work ethic. (Also: a bonus history lesson of pro basketball greatness.)

October 18, 2011 – The solar industry is creating jobs 7× faster than the rest of the US, and extending key tax legislation could double jobs created and support billions of dollars in economic investment, said Rhone Resch, president/CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), in his keynote at this week’s Solar Power International (SPI) show in Dallas, TX.

Among Resch’s key talking points:

  • The US solar industry employs more than 100,000 Americans, spanning 5000 companies. (Source: Solar Foundation)

  • Extending the US Treasury’s Section 1603 program, set to expire on Dec. 31, would create 37,000 new jobs in 2012 — nearly double the 19,000 it has enabled to date, across 47 states and Washington DC. It also has supported over $4.4B in economic investment.

  • There are 3.1GW of solar power in place right now, and another 4GW under construction. Texas, he noted, could be a major solar market — its potential vastly outstrips its current position behind other states (CA, CO, NJ) and barely top-10 in generation.

  • The SEIA is merging with the Solar Alliance, a state-focused consortium of firms all along the PV industry chain (manufacturers, integrators, even financiers). Together the two groups hope to “create a unified voice for the solar industry on both the state and federal levels.”

Today’s other keynote was NBA Hall-of-Famer David Robinson, standing in for planned speaker/NBA HoF-er Magic Johnson. Beyond his formidable playing statistics, Robinson was known for his professionalism, integrity, and work ethic (he took two years after college to serve his Navy commitment before heading to the NBA). These days he’s involved in real estate investments, education, and various philanthropic efforts. He lauded the Naval Academy for instilling discipline (“but it’s not for everybody”), and teaching people “how to serve.” He also stressed the importance of values, dedication, hard work, and the need to be flexible in a world that “changes at a much faster pace than it’s ever changed before” — today’s technology will be rapidly eclipsed, he pointed out, so it’s important to stress that “it’s the work ethic that starts everything.” That’s something he feels that isn’t receiving enough emphasis in today’s (US) society, and he urged attendees to focus on teaching their kids how to work hard.

[Editor’s note: A personal thank-you to Robinson for recalling his playing days, specifically the 1994-1995 Western Conference Finals, where he was admittedly “abused” and “got worked over” by NBA HoF-er Hakeem Olajuwon — my own childhood hero. So, thanks for the fond memories!]

Both keynotes can be viewed on the SPI Web site. And here’s the full transcript of Resch’s keynote.

SPI kicks off this week with nearly 1200 exhibitors (international and US) across 1.1 million gross sq. ft., and is expected to draw more than 21,000 attendees — and generate $26M in economic activity for Texas.

Among Wednesday’s scheduled headline speakers: SEPA president/CEO Julia Hamm, slated to evaluate future utility-scale solar 20 years from now, and a roundtable of utility executives discussing technical, regulatory, and business challenges.

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