What changes have we seen in solar energy over the past decade?
Solar energy is borderline no longer alternative. It’s on the edge of being as economic and utility as fossil fuels or conventional energies.
Many things have led to that happening but the single biggest change is the demand. The technology is fundamentally still the same as it was 20 years ago. But just like with computers or any other consumer product, when the demand finally gets there, companies have a profit motive to improve the product and lower the cost of manufacturing – there’s an incentive.
And what about a change in cost?
There has been an exponential decline in cost and an increase in reliability and performance. When you put all these together, it’s no longer alternative. It will soon the way you build houses. Just as AC is automatically installed in news houses, we are on the edge of solar panels being the same way.
So you are saying solar is becoming a conventional energy source?
If I want to get anything across, it’s that solar energy isn’t spacey, it isn’t weird. it’s a reliable new way of generating energy.
What evidence is present that suggests solar is on the rise as an energy source?
There’s a very interesting and well done survey of about 20,000 Florida households that came back with 78 percent of Florida households saying they think solar energy should be pursued and they were willing to pay a dollar more each month on their electricity bills for it – that’s less than a cup of coffee. That was done two years ago.
There’s no fuel, no emissions. The installation and manufacturing is clean. No smoke stacks and more jobs. It keeps the money we spend on energy within the state of Florida and boosts the economy.
Has is become a more affordable practice to install solar panels in one’s home?
It has. The cost of the modules is the most expensive thing has fallen exponentially. Two years ago the cost was 30 cents a kilowatt-hour of energy and now it’s less that 17. The prediction for two years from now is less than 12 cents a kilowatt-hour. Right now, the average residential electric rate in Florida is about 12 or 13 cents, to give you a frame of reference. Within two years, we will reach grid parity – when solar energy will cost the same or less than what you are paying for non solar.
We are in exciting times here.
What is the availability of these systems and how intrusive is the installation process?
There is really no disturbance, it’s all external. It’s done on your roof. There’s no risk of damaging the roof and creating a leak. It’s difficult to put them on tile roofs but it still can be done.
There is a whole new category of solar shingles now that are very exciting. Look for that to happen particularly in new homes. If you are going to build a house and you have to have shingles anyway, why not have them be generating electric energy. All these systems are very commercial, very mature and very robust. There’s not anything science project about them.