If you haven’t read the Sunday New York Times Magazine piece, “The Secret to Solar Power,” we strongly recommend that you check it out, as it’s an important one for the industry. Among other things, it pushes back on critics of clean energy, who often brush the whole industry with a broad, “Solyndra” brush. It also clearly demonstrates how major investment dollars continue to flow into the solar sector, particularly in the residential leasing segment. In fact, as the article correctly points out:
Though the failure of Solyndra has dominated the political and social discourse around solar power, the reality of the industry — as evidenced by the enormous investments that companies like Google and Bank of America are making in residential solar power — is that it has rapidly become a smart, practical and profitable investment. Despite a lack of widespread acceptance, the market is growing and the competition is getting tight.
In addition, as the article explains, “the potential of the sun as a power source is nearly unlimited.” Plus it doesn’t come with the baggage of fossil fuels; as Sungevity founder Danny Kennedy puts it, “We frack our own backyards and pollute our rivers, or we blow up our mountaintops just miles from our nation’s capital for an hour of electricity, when we could just take what’s falling free from the sky.”
So, why haven’t we all switched to solar power? The obstacles are not really technological at this point, but bureaucratic (“There’s a lot of complexity with permitting and everything else”) and up-front investment cost, both of which the solar leasing industry solves. In short, with the obstacles effectively overcome, solar leasing becomes a win-win, as the customer gets cheaper electricity, while the solar leasing company makes a revenue stream from leasing the solar panels to you. And as the cost of solar continues to fall, that win-win proposition becomes even more impressive.
In the end, this is “The Secret to Solar Power” – the distributed, residential, roof-top version of it, at least: economics that makes sense for the consumer, a business model that works for the solar leasing companies. Who, other than the fossil fuel industry, wouldn’t be excited about that?