The Solar Energy Industries Association recently hosted a Google+ Hangout, its “Solar Means Business 2013” Hangout. Much of what was presented has been covered thoroughly on CleanTechnica, so I’m just going to skip that part (but you can watch it all from the beginning here.)
But a few parts towards the end really seemed to me to be worth highlighting. First, starting about 34 minutes in, Jim Walker of The Climate Group highlighted the great importance of broad communication with the masses (in order for solar to become much more common). As he noted, disruptive technologies (such as smartphones, solar panels, and electric cars) are available and financially viable long before they become mainstream. A critical part of them becoming mainstream is simply getting the word out — more and more people seeing or hearing about them. The key “tipping point” comes when we see enough other people with the technology that we ask, “Why haven’t I got one?” He noted that the anecdotal evidence from people and businesses who have gone solar is very important for this. (Again, you can watch starting at that segment here.)
Nichola Groom of Reuters had an interesting question for the panelists — heads of Walmart, IKEA, and General Motors who are helping to get the word out by going solar themselves. She asked how they typically went solar — by purchasing solar power systems or through PPAs/solar leasing. Interestingly, there was some variation here. IKEA purchases its systems, while Walmart and GM go the PPA/solar leasing route (the same as most homeowners who have the option). Why would Walmart and GM not simply buy their own systems? It seems one of the big reasons was basically that they didn’t want to try to figure everything out. Rather, they preferred leaving that to the existing “solar experts.” I’d think such big companies would do an evaluation of the costs and benefits of each option, but it seems they decided to go the 3rd-party-solar route before even getting to such a step. (You can watch that section starting here.)
One super-interesting comment that SEIA Chairman and CEO Rhone Resch made, with a sly smile on his face to boot, was that he thought the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar would be extended beyond 2016. He said, “I think you’re going to find that it magically gets extended for a period of time.” Wow. That’s the first I’ve heard of that. Not entirely surprising, though — there are many huge and powerful companies now making use of that incentive (including many large financial companies). They have influence over both the Democratic and Republican Party, and it would be odd to see them not get an ITC extension enacted.
Lastly, as far as the highlights go, Frank Andorka of Solar Power World had a question for IKEA about when it would start selling solar panels in its US stores, and what it would need to get to that stage. I’m sure this is something many of you are interested in, so here’s that segment.
The whole Hangout is worth a watch if you have the time. Check it out if you have the time and want to make sure you don’t miss anything: