Daunted by high up-front costs, U.S. homeowners continue to shy away from residential solar power systems, even as utility-scale solar projects are taking off. But with do-it-yourself kits and other innovative installation approaches now on the market, residential solar is having modest growth.
This post asks the provocative question whether solar PV is really market ready yet. It goes on to suggest that it might be counter-productive for the long term growth of the sector to push solar photovoltaic adoption rates through the use of government subsidies, making the point that this may in fact be slowing down the adoption of needed innovation and process improvement that should ultimately make renewable energy more affordable.
The solar sector is among the most hated on Wall Street. Many names in the solar sector that are heavily shorted, in spite of it being the fastest growing energy sector in the U.S. Meanwhile, the world is using oil faster than it’s being pumped, which is economically dangerous, because oil price spikes have preceded all recessions since 1970. More renewables could serve to lessen our ridiculous economic vulnerability to oil prices.
While the U.S. government lavishes loan guarantees and expedites review of projects on public land for multi-megawatt and even gigawatt solar projects, it’s small-scale solar that’s turning sunshine into electricity.
Suntech CEO, Zhengrong Shi, a prime mover in helping to turn China into a global force in photovoltaic technology, has been a major influence in bringing China’s solar PV cost structure down and making China a powerhouse in photovoltaic technology–and became a billionaire in the process. Shi’s ambition is to make solar power as cheap as conventional electricity.
The way it is looking right now it sometimes seems like China is going to leave the US in the dust in the post fossil energy economy. Recent signs point to an increasingly green thinking China that is getting serious about greening its economy and making it much more energy efficient and one has a serious long term plan (and potential) to green its economy. Its wind and solar sectors are growing at a breakneck pace and are poised to continue doing so and within a few years — if this growth rate continues — will propel China into a world leading position in solar and wind energy production. In updated news the Pew Charitable Trusts has reported that China is now spending almost twice as much as the US is on investments in investments in clean renewable energy. Last year (2009) U.S. clean energy investments reached $18.6 billion, while China invested $34.6 billion in their clean tech energy.
Distributed energy systems can range from the micro sized do it yourself systems being installed on rooftops and on hilltops to small scale systems ranging up to around 20MW (megawatts) of capacity, although it must be understood that this is a pretty fuzzy boundary. The defining characteristic of distributed energy systems is that they generate energy close to the point of use where that energy will be consumed; hence the admittedly fuzzy 20MW upper boundary for their size.
This is the second installment of my weekly series of interviews I have conducted with people who have made a career transition to the clean/green sector. Last week focused on my interview with with Glenn Booth, VP of Marketing & Business Development at Cool Energy, Inc. He has made the transition from telecom to solar. This week we are presenting my interview with Laks Sampath, who is a Principal with ElliptlQ Energy Partners, who transitioned from working with dotcoms to solar.
The clean tech green energy sector is hurting badly – along with the rest of our economy. A lot of promising new firms are on life support finding it very difficult to raise desperately needed venture capital. We need to be laying the foundations for future growth now and there is no time to waste, I would argue that this is a paramount issue of national security, that it is not just about jobs or being “green”, but that it is an urgently vital necessity for our country’s future security. This is not an optional choice; it is not a luxury, a nice to have kind of thing; this is the very life blood of our country, of our industrial society. An industrial society needs energy and lots of it. America needs to urgently begin a national crash program of investing in domestically controlled renewable energy supplies, such as wind and solar right now while we still have a little breathing room to begin laying the foundations for a new American energy economy. It is a matter of national security.