When the Facebook IPO was the #1 news topic last week, it didn’t cross my mind that there was any important connection to cleantech, or solar energy in particular. However, a couple days later, it struck me that there was an important one.
Facebook went from a simple idea in 2003 or 2004 to a multi-billion-dollar company with one of the biggest IPOs in history this month. Why?
What does Facebook offer?
Facebook’s offerings are pretty straightforward (though, it’s obviously trying to broaden those as much as it can). Primarily, for as long as I’ve known about it, it has offered two main things, and those two things are still the core of its business:
- it gives people an easy way to ‘publish’ whatever they want (it acts as a decentralized publishing agency that lets everyone be ‘a star’);
- it delivers a custom ‘newspaper’ (or news feed) to every member (again, acting as a decentralized news agency).
Any news agency would die for the kind of numbers Facebook has. The value of decentralized publishing is apparently as good as it gets these days. Of course, Facebook is just one of many networks offering these things now, but it got it early and it eventually became the clearly dominant one, now making it almost mandatory to be on Facebook if you want to connect with friends and family in this way.
Now, finally, how does this relate to solar energy?
If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, the point is that solar energy decentralizes power generation (like Facebook decentralized publishing… or dominated the decentralization of publishing). This certainly isn’t as glamorous as ‘being in the publishing, photography, and film industry’ (being on Facebook), but this is one of its great values — it puts power (and, with that, more societal power) back in the hands of individuals and households.
While solar power may not feed people’s ego and social needs like Facebook does, there’s no doubt that the above, especially when people realize that it means more money for them, is appealing.
Am I going out on a limb with this connection? I don’t think so, and I certainly wasn’t trying to. While the decentralized (or democratized, as John Farrell puts it) nature of rooftop solar is one of its important (and I would say underrated) qualities, it’s not exactly what’s driving the industry forward — in fact, the effort involved in doing something for oneself might be on of the biggest things slowing it down. But along with superior environmental performance, cheaper electricity, and job creation, that is one important piece of what solar power offers.
Images: screenshot of CleanTechnica Facebook page by me; Pan Xunbin / Shutterstock.com
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