Solar Industry Optimistic for 2012 0

Our February 22, 2012 #SolarChat on Twitter was filled with industry leaders and the solar curious. Although’s Raina Russo couldn’t make it (for the first time ever!), the entire staff here at EO is thrilled and excited by the response our #SolarChats have gotten, and — like the solar industry itself — we started out strong in 2012 and plan to continue the momentum throughout the year.

Solar visions for 2012 — that was exactly the topic of our most recent #SolarChat, which is held twice a month on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. ET. In Raina’s absence, Michael Rader, digital advocacy specialist at Solar Energy Industries Association, was kind enough to host. Solar advocate Kendra Hubbard served as the official “greeter.”

The overall general attitude during the chat was optimistic — you can’t keep solar down, and no legislation (or lack of) can dull the passion of solar advocates and solar workers. As I’m writing this, those old song lyrics from the 80s “The future’s so bright, I’ve gotta wear shades” keep going through my head. In spite of all the challenges the solar industry faces, its members are ready.

What? Us, Worry?
As prices fall for solar, chat participants voiced concerns about maintaining installation and manufacturing standards and streamlining processes, particularly permit processes, in order to make up for falling prices with faster installations — without, of course, sacrificing safety or quality. Solar professionals also shared ideas to overcome challenges in a post-1603 world. Again and again, financing and consumer education were mentioned as two of the biggest stumbling blocks to solar’s growth in 2012.

For the uninitiated, 1603 refers to the 1603 Treasury Program, the bill which provided renewable energy project developers with cash payments in lieu of investment tax credits for projects started prior to 2012. The awards were, in most cases, equal to 30 percent of the project’s total eligible cost basis.

In just two years, the policy generated more than $22 billion in private sector investment to launch 22,000 renewable energy projects, resulting in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs for Americans.

It’s understandable that solar contractors are concerned about success in a post-1603 world, but most of our chat participants remained optimistic that they will find new ways to finance projects, including banks and through state-based initiatives. As the solar industry continues to promote all the positive sides of a solar PV installation and members of the industry work together to educate consumers on concepts such as net metering, the demand for solar will continue. #SolarChat regular Kendra Hubbard noted, “I think we need to position solar as something for now (not just future returns)… sense of immediacy.”

L.A Solar Systems mentioned that year-to-date numbers are flat, but the company is forecasting better numbers as they explore different post-1603 ways to increase funded solar PV projects. Grace Ocean didn’t have any doubts about better numbers as 2012 moves on: “I think the momentum in solar applications is continuing without a slow down in sight!

What can solar advocates, from industry members to passionate homeowners, do to help it along? Hubbard offered a succinct and powerful answer to the chat’s final question: “What’s the most important thing industry trade and advocacy groups can do to help solar businesses succeed in 2012?”

She stated, “More positive publicity.”

And that’s a great note to end — or begin — on. (Read the full recap here.)

Join us for the next #SolarChat on 3/14/12; our topic: Solar Does Good.

Missed our chat? Why not share your thoughts on the solar industry in 2012 below. Better yet, share your more personal plans. Do you already have solar panels? Or are you considering a solar PV installation this year?

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