SOLAR POWER 2007 – DAY 4: PARTY’S OVER, FORECAST TOMORROW: SUN
At today’s last session, “California Solar Programs: Review and Forecast,” Lisa Frantzis of powerhouse consulting group Navigant explained that California’s goal of 3000 megawatts of solar energy installed by 2016 is unlikely to be met unless utility prices rise 7%/year. If programs to control emissions and energy consumption don’t drive utility prices up significantly in the next decade, most Californians will probably have drowned from sea level rise or died of lung disease anyway. (Just kidding…sort of.)
Rumor: The party at Long Beach’s truly inspiring Aquarium of the Pacific Wednesday night, sponsored by SunPower Corp. and Cowen and Co., reportedly got a little wild. No confirmed reports of skinny dipping with the sea otters but there were apparently folks who got pretty lubricated.
And that ain’t nothin’ compared to the solar energy party these folks left here yesterday looking to start all over the country and all over the world. There was a remarkable variety of nationalities on the floor. NewEnergyNews met Japanese, German, Israeli, Chinese (a LOT of Chinese, both the Mainland and Taiwanese kinds), South African, Spanish, French (Go Global Green!), Canadian (You really should run for office) and Italian folks, a couple of Scandinavian-sounding folks, some men in turbans speaking British English, a Pakistani plumbing supply guy and a lot of Americans (Boston, Philly, Manhattan, Jersey, Atlanta, Scottsdale, Silicon Valley and Austin, among others, not to mention Southern California locals).
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There are a lot of ideas about how to make solar cheaper. Manufacturing and installation are getting more streamlined all the time. They are building silicon factories to try to get a handle on the cost of the raw material -- but it isn’t working yet. Larry Cooper, an industry veteran with Kyocera, says there are now 100 companies trying to get the right formula for thin film, another way around the silicon bottleneck.
And then there were the finance guys. One has a plan to market solar systems by leasing them. He says he has a bank with $13 million dollars behind him. He’ll own the system and you pay him a utility bill. The details of his program are a little complicated, especially if you use more energy than you’re supposed to, but it gets around the large expense of buying a system.
Matt, with Black Rock Solar, is doing wonderful work donating systems from this year’s Burning Man. He says solar energy needs to get over being “the other.” It needs to be a natural thing, like buying a refrigerator. You could live without a refrigerator but you just wouldn’t choose to. A solar system should be like that.
The problem is that it costs as much as a car. Most folks wouldn’t go out and buy a car if they already had one. And most of us already have electricity.
It’s a big number to deal with. Even when you know that the system is going to be generating free electricity for 2 decades or more after it has paid for itself, you can’t help but worry. Will it last that long? Yes. Will the technology become outdated? Newer technology might make systems that look a little different or take a little less space on the roof but you will still be getting the same number of kilowatts and the system will be paid off.
Lyndon Rive, as reported in DAY 1: GETTING READY TO OPEN Monday, is organizing groups to get better prices. As he points out, all studies show that solar enhances the value of the house beyond the system’s cost.
A fund guy from Apple Valley has the right idea. He wants to write a “Reverse Mortgage and Equity contract” to use your home and wrap the cost of the solar system into it. All you worry about is a monthly payment. Besides being an unexpected opportunity in the current mortgage crunch, his numbers might actually work. The idea of putting the cost of the solar system into the house is exactly right. That’s done routinely in Japan. It’s what California Energy Commission (CEC) Chairwoman Jackalyne Pfannenstiel wants to do. Her goal is to make solar systems standard on all new California homes.
But as for solar-the-product, here’s what you need to know about where it is right now: An audience member asked all four panel members and the moderator (including representatives of Sungevity, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), San Diego Gas & Electric and the CEC) if they had solar systems. All had great “reasons” but none had solar energy. They are all people who see the wisdom of solar energy but do not yet see how to have it. When the electrical engineers and financial wizards and roof monkeys show them how to have it, this will be a new world.
This is NewEnergyNews, signing off from Long Beach, CA, where the sun is rising on a new world.
Solar Power 2007 -- Day 4: Party's Over, Forecast Tommorrow: Sun
Presented by Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA); Sponsored by Sharp and Southern California Edison
SOLAR POWER 2007, the biggest solar energy industry conclave ever. Almost 10,000 participants.
Ended September 27.
- Long Beach Convention Center.
- The event will soon be available as a webcast. Webcast Info Here.
Right now, the most cost effective change a homeowner can make is making the house energy efficient. Long term, it’s hard to see how you can go wrong adding a solar installation if you’ve got the money and can wait for the biggest part of the return, the nearly free electricity.
- Julia Judd, SEPA executive director/Solar Power 2007 chair: “Solar power is no longer only of interest to technology geeks and futurists. The technology and a wide range of applications for businesses and homeowners are available and real today."
- Rhone Resch, SEIA president: “The business climate for solar power in the United States is rapidly heating up. The size and scope of this year’s conference signals that the global solar industry views the U.S. as a prime market for investment…Today, American ingenuity is shaping the future growth of the solar industry, from innovative technology and business models to individuals pushing for clean energy solutions. We need a federal energy policy that harnesses this ingenuity and puts our solar energy resources to work for America.”
- Thomas Edison: “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”