Solar’s “Breaking Dawn”

Ok, I’m not much for Vampire movies. I’ll admit it.

I have watched a few of them with my wife (to be social), and wouldn’t say that I was bored….. They just aren’t my movie preference.

Of course, I would enjoy the superhuman powers of vampires. Of course… I would like to live forever…. On the other hand, I am quite a big fan of powerful garlic bread… and I like the sun!

A group of my wife’s friends all went together as a “girls night out” to the midnight premier of the new “Breaking Dawn” vampire movie. They had a grand old time. Apparently Bella and Edward get married and have a “vampire child”…. I don’t really know they rest, but that is the basic plot line.

As the title suggests the dawn is finally arriving. No longer must life be lived in the dark.

The title is a metaphor of moving from the darkness to the light (as every dawn is).

 The solar industry itself is currently going through a “breaking dawn” moment. For the past 40 years or so the solar industry has been slowly maturing. For years solar was basically for the scientist working on space projects, or for the back to nature hobbyist who is trying to “get off the grid” or “stick it to the system.”

The industry has been patiently observed by millions of interested onlookers who are waiting for it to make financial sense. During these early years the industry has slowly worked through the growing pains associated with any new industry. There has been no dramatic growth, simply steady, slow improvements to equipment and processes. For years the prices have steadily decreased while the efficiency of the systems have slowly increased. The prices have been inching down for years.

Over these same years there has been a growing realization that we are moving towards an energy “crisis” of sorts. We have become so used to plentiful and cheap energy that we are now aware of the limits of our energy supplies. All fossil fuels are finite and running out. Scarcity inevitably causes prices to rise.   This has been the actual story of our energy situation for the past 30 years. All fuels are becoming more expensive. Wars are fought over oil and access to energy. It looks like future wars will involve energy as well. There does not seem to be an end in sight to the rising price of energy.

Not only have we seen the price of energy multiply, but we have also become much more aware of how the current energy that we use have been damaging our land and our water. With oil spills and coal ash spills and significant pollution issues in the air we breathe constantly in the news- we are starting to re-evaluate the full cost of our “energy addiction.”

All of these factors make the amazing growth of the solar industry in the past few years look like a “breaking dawn” moment. We are leaving the old energy paradigm and looking forward to the clean energy that the sun can bring. With a mature solar energy industry ready to rapidly move forward.

The solar industry has been growing at over 40% a year for the past few years- despite a national and worldwide depression. With over 100,000 full time workers there is capacity to really begin switching over our countries energy mix.

In the past few years grid tied solar photovoltaic systems have become very popular with small businesses and residential customers as a way to lock in their electrical rates and to protect themselves from future energy price increases. In many parts of the country (where there are higher electrical rates) solar energy has already passed “grid parity.” In other words it is definitely cheaper to install a solar system than it is to rely on the available utility with it’s expensive “brown” energy.

Of course, with a solar system, once the initial capital cost has been recovered, there is no need to every pay any price for an ongoing fuel source (like coal or natural gas or gasoline).   There will never be a side industry of mining, drilling, transporting fuels- because the sun itself is the fuel!    Delivered right to your location.

In 2011 there are now worldwide solar module distributors that can provide panels for significantly less than just a couple of years ago. The prices are dropping dramatically. They have dropped so fast that certain “American” manufacturers want protection from these low priced foreign competitors (no surprise there) and are petitioning Congress for protective tariffs.

I am bothered by the cry for tariffs, but I am excited that there is an apparent need for them. This is telling. The prices are dangerously low. It is hard to make a living selling modules. There are major manufacturers who are competing aggressively! Customers win from this kind of competition. The solar industry wins from this kind of competition. Our children and the planet win from this kind of competition!

 The light is finally starting to shine on the solar industry. It’s day has come. The breaking dawn will be brighter than we can even handle.

And we have a long way to go. Today there is still way less than 1% of our national energy produced from solar energy. 30% penetration in the energy mix is a good goal, and as the price of solar continues to plummet because of fierce competition and increasingly higher fossil fuel prices, and our desire for cleaner energy, that 30% goal will not seem like “blue sky” dreaming, but will be simply a road marker that we notice as we pass it by.

Those millions of interested observers now have the correct motivations to jump on board and start enjoying the energy from the sun that the 40 years of research and development and competition have now made so easily available.

Come to think of it… violently sucking the earth dry of it’s fossil fuel supply does seem sort of “vampirish”.

Lets enjoy the sunlight!

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