State of the solar industry summed up in one word: Growing.
Jun 14, 2017
With almost daily updates coming out of the media regarding issues of climate change and the need for renewable energy — not to mention international headlines about President Trump and decisions regarding the Paris Accord and more — it’s little wonder people are wondering about the state of the solar industry.
In spite of the attention these issues are getting on a national level, or perhaps because of it, the state of the solar industry can be summed up in a single word: Growing.
It’s the kind of growth that initially took people by surprise. The industry bounded out of the gates, moving so quickly it attracted the attention of a bevy of shirttail companies, each trying to get a piece of the sun-kissed pie. In fact, recent figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) show an increase in solar jobs of 24.5 percent from 2015 to 2016 — which is a growth rate roughly 17 times faster than the United States economy as a whole, according to Futurism.com.
However, not every company was prepared for the long haul and as time has moved forward and industry growth includes some pains and hurdles, the weaker, less prepared companies have fallen, leaving room for organizations like Legend Solar to grow even more.
“It’s a cleansing period,” says Jed Alldredge, president of Legend Solar. “The stronger companies are going to succeed.”
The key, Alldredge says, is maintaining a 30,000-foot management level, rather than getting trapped down in the bushes.
“You need to see what’s coming and stay ahead of things,” he says.
So what can people like Alldredge and others at Legend Solar see from their bird’s eye view of the industry? Changes. Some rapid. Others slow. But ultimately all for the betterment of the industry.
One of the main points discussed at a recent national SunPower convention — a product for which Legend Solar is an elite dealer — is the need to focus on energy storage.
“That’s a technology that needs to catch up,” Alldredge says.
And it’s safe to believe that it will catch up. Similar to the way computers that started out large enough to fill an entire room and have since evolved to fit in the palm of your hand, providing more memory, speed and options than early computer scientists may have imagined.
With net-metering serving as a major buzz word in the solar industry these days, thanks to some of the road blocks municipalities are putting in place to make solar power less appealing than traditional power sources, there are many companies working to make battery storage more efficient and economical.
“Storage technology will completely change the game all together,” Alldredge says. “Once it reaches an acceptable price point, then net metering isn’t a problem anymore. You can go off the grid.”
Going off the grid is already possible in many places, but in order for the idea to be adopted by the masses, energy storage needs to become more efficient and affordable.
Changing the mindset
Rather than seeing solar power as a passing trend, one of the areas Legend Solar and other companies are striving to emphasize is, this is the way of the future. And it’s a brighter, cleaner future to behold.
According to another article on Futurism.com, by switching to solar people can expect to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 37 million metric tons. Some people struggle to recognize the worldwide benefit of this, choosing instead to focus on their own financial needs. However, solar power can ultimately improve both. On the national front, Futurism reports, “switching to solar saves the United States more than $400 billion in healthcare and environmental cleanup costs.” On the personal side, solar panels ultimately pay for themselves and can increase the resale value of your home. Not only that, Alldredge says it is a matter of owning your power source and leasing that power from a municipality.
“It just makes sense,” Alldredge says.
One area of interest for a lot of people in the solar industry is the ability to incorporate microgrids into housing developments and business complexes.
Rather than needing to install solar panels on the roof of each business in a given area, land can be set aside in a business complex to house a microgrid — a smaller-scale power grid that can operate independently or in conjunction with the area’s main electrical grid — to provide solar power to each business in the complex.
“It’s starting to evolve in Europe and it’s one thing we’re going to be looking into too,” Alldredge says.
Adapting to change
With all the technological advancements coming down the solar wire in the future, Alldredge says municipalities, both locally and across the nation, are going to have to find a way to adapt to the change.
“Power companies are going to have to completely re-engineer themselves in terms of renewable energy,” he says. “Most of the municipalities are still trying to figure out how to handle this. They’re mostly reactionary, coming up with fees to offset their losses.”
But that’s not a sustainable strategy in the long run and, in the short run, it’s proving to be a frustrating hurdle to businesses like Legend Solar who are trying to do something good for the environment and the community.
“It’s inevitable that everyone is going to have to eventually accept that technology is taking us in this direction (with solar energy), but the almighty dollar is slowing it down considerably,” Alldredge says.
There are positive signs, however. Such as the recent legislation in Nevada essentially reinstating net metering agreements between customers and power companies in Nevada.
“We’re already talking about how to get moving back into Nevada,” Alldredge says.
Just another example of the way the solar industry is going. And growing.