The Solar Truth 0

There are a number of very powerful voices in the modern energy space today.

Having been a part of this movement (on the investment side) for nearly a decade now, I’ve had the great privilege of meeting some real movers and shakers. I had a one-on-one with T. Boone Pickens a few years back, I shared the stage at a renewable energy conference with Ed Begley, Jr. and I’ve taken part in panel discussions with some of this nation’s most powerful CEOs.

Of course, I’ve also attended hundreds of conferences and meetings where I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some incredibly knowledgeable folks sound off about the clean energy movement.

One of my favorites is Jigar Shah – founder of SunEdison and board member of the Carbon War Room.

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Shah speak three times now. And every time, he blows me away. I also tend to read pretty much anything this guy writes. I’ve even shared some of his editorials with you on this site.

Well, Shah released another brilliant commentary this week that I would like to share with you.

Check it out. . .

Last year, Bill Gates noted in an interview with Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal that technologies like solar photovoltaics and LED lights were “cute” but could never deal with the bigger issue of climate change and power the developing world.

And, this week, writer Marc Gunther wrote in his post that “Germany, once the world’s leading market for solar power, is pulling back its subsidies. Q Cells, once the world’s largest solar company, just went bankrupt. This isn’t happy news.”

So I am writing to point out three things:

  1. The solar industry is growing and is significant, but is not going to solve all the ills of carbon;
  2. Mistakes are blessings; and
  3. Theory is theory, not a solution

Solar Growth: First, let me make note that I, and others, have just spent the last decade in solar creating the solar services industry which, according to the 2011 National Solar Jobs Census published by the Solar Foundation, grew 6.8 percent between 2010 and 2011.

Plus, the solar industry installed $90 billion of equipment last year. That’s double the amount of equipment that was installed for the new coal industry.

And, GTM research and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), issued a report that the showed that U.S. installed 1,855 MW (or 1.86 GW) of solar in 2011 and is expected to install a full gigawatt more than that in 2012: 2.8 GW.

GTM Research and SEIA estimate the U.S. solar market’s total value surpassed $8.4 billion in 2011.

So, solar is winning and growing. But, no one is saying it is the only solution — just a compelling piece of the puzzle.

In fact, there is no silver bullet. We must find efficiencies and new solutions in solving the carbon issue in several areas: transport, agriculture, energy, forestry, industry, buildings and waste.

However, when we think about carbon, most of us tend to think of two areas: transportation and electricity. While Bill Gates might label solar and LED lighting as “cute,” the numbers seem to suggest otherwise. Both are billion-dollar industries and together with hundreds of other solutions will help reach the $5+ trillion in new investments necessary to make an impact by 2020.

Remember, we did not get to this point with one major offender, and we will not solve our ills with one major solution.

Gates, however, suggested that we spend more money developing a new generation of energy technologies instead of investing in incremental improvements of today’s energy technologies. He said this at WIRED’s third annual conference, Disruptive by Design.

“Can we, by increasing efficiency [technologies], deal with our climate problem?” Gates asked. “The answer there is basically no, because the climate problem requires more than 90% reduction of CO2 emitted, and no amount of efficiency improvement is enough.”

Again, I disagree with Gates as, in this case, “perfect is the enemy of good.” In solving our CO2 problem, we actually have all of the cost-effective technology need to meet our 2020 goals and more to meet future goals. More R&D is always a good thing, but to suggest the current suite of technologies is not ready is just criminal. Gates certainly didn’t wait for the perfect solutions to Windows before he deployed his beta versions on the world. We are a more productive society because he didn’t wait.

Click here to keep reading. . .

Setting the Record Straight on Solar originally appeared in Green Chip Stocks. Green Chip Review is a free 2x-per-week newsletter, is the first advisory to focus exclusively on investments in alternative and renewable energies.

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