Covid-19 Impacts on the Solar Industry

Covid-19 Impacts on the Solar Industry

The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted solar and storage supply chains across all segments of the industry, initially devastated customer demand, reduced opportunities for the workforce, and caused permitting and interconnections to grind to a halt in many jurisdictions.

On the other hand, when homeowners were required to work from home — and they realized that they could not rely on utility power — interest in solar with backup power actually increased. Commercial customer interest paused during shelter in place, whereas utilities continued with their demand for solar and storage

Businesses thrive on accurate and timely information, and the solar + storage industry is no exception. One of the best information sources to help navigate these uncertain times is IHS Markit. Not only do they provide comprehensive solar + storage information, they also provide data analytics and expertise for other cleantech sectors, as well as oil and gas, automotive, financial industries.

My guest on this week’s Energy Show is Cormac Gilligan, Associate Director of Solar and Energy Storage at IHS Markit. Cormac is like a human crystal ball for the global solar industry, and is widely regarded as a leading authority on the global PV inverter market. His analysis and commentary is regularly published by leading PV industry media and the global press. Miguel De Jesus, IHS Markit’s solar and inverter analyst, also joined this week’s Energy Show.

Given Covid-19 impacts on the solar + storage industry, we could use all the intelligent forecasting we can get — so please listen up to this week’s Energy Show.

Sustainable Solar Development with Inovateus Solar

Sustainable Solar Development with Inovateus Solar

Today’s solar technology is the most sustainable way of generating energy. Solar power is inexpensive on a kilowatt per hour basis, is low maintenance, has zero fuel requirements, generates no emissions, and is completely silent.

But even solar leaves a waste footprint, primarily because there is a lot of equipment that is manufactured and installed. Energy is consumed during component and equipment manufacturing, shipment and installation — whether on a utility-scale field, commercial flat roof or home. Waste is inevitably generated, especially packaging materials (I was kicked out of my first home office because we were recycling too much cardboard).

Perhaps the biggest waste footprint issues will arise when solar installations are de-commissioned at the end of their life. Aluminum and steel racking can be profitably recycled. However, as with many other consumer and industrial products (tires, electronics, etc.), there are significant costs associated with shipping and recycling solar panels. It is not an easy process to separate the aluminum, glass and silicon that are the primary components of solar panels.

This all comes back to the concept of sustainable solar development, and in the solar industry, sustainability is more than just a buzzword. We strive to walk the talk. As a result, most solar companies have solar panels on their roof, use EVs in their fleet and are compulsive about recycling.

Our guest on this week’s Energy Show is TJ Kanczuzewski, CEO of Inovateus Solar. Based in South Bend, Indiana, Inovateus is emphasizing corporate sustainability on all of their projects. Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as TJ discusses how Inovateus Solar has established their sustainability plan, and how they are extending sustainable solar development for their projects and with business partners.

New Normal as we Recover from the Corona Virus

New Normal as we Recover from the Corona Virus

Everyone is looking forward to a return to some degree of normalcy as we recover from the corona virus pandemic. But it is very hard to make sense what a new normal would be with all the conflicting information from health, economic and policy experts — not to mention the almost diametrically opposed viewpoints expressed in various media outlets.

The reality is that the progression of the corona virus will dictate the pace at which we will return to normal. Unfortunately, there are just way too many variables — on a worldwide basis — to predict when the corona virus will be reduced to a manageable level, perhaps like the flu or common cold.

I’m not a medical or economic or political expert — but I do know a bit about energy, solar and storage. As a result of the corona virus, the solar + storage industry has been on an extreme version of the Solar Coaster. Like most businesses, almost all solar and battery companies were completely shut down for a few weeks in the March/April time frame.

Since energy systems are generally considered “essential infrastructure,” many companies were able to restart as long as they followed applicable social distancing protocols. Unfortunately, local building departments have been slow to resume their permitting and inspection activities. More troubling has been that utility processing of interconnections has been extremely slow; our local utility continues to find virtually every excuse to delay solar and storage installations and increase costs.

Fortunately, the supply chain for solar and storage equipment has been pretty good — so far. Most companies have not experienced any significant shortages of solar panels, inverters or batteries. But the increased need for home and business backup power — coupled with the upcoming wildfire season here in California — is increasing the demand for battery backup systems. As a result, the biggest “supply chain” limitation that most contractors are experiencing relates to the availability of experienced solar and battery installers.

So please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as we discuss the changes the solar industry has experienced during the corona virus pandemic, and our outlook on the future as we move toward the “new normal.”

Corporate Cultures in the Solar Industry

Corporate Cultures in the Solar Industry

Where do solar panels, batteries and inverters come from? No, they don’t come from solar elves or a retail store. They come from distributors who order in huge quantities directly from manufacturers. These distributors then pick, pack and ship efficiently in smaller quantities to contractors who do the installations. Essentially the same manufacture-distributor-contractor supply chain as in the HVAC, electrical and plumbing industries.

Distributors provide a tremendous service to solar and storage industry. Even though they mark up the equipment slightly to make a profit, they significantly reduce costs for contractors by eliminating overhead and all the hassles with dealing with dozens of vendors and thousands of components. These lower costs flow to the businesses and homeowners that are purchasing systems.

I have learned over the past 20 years in the solar industry that it is more efficient and actually cheaper to order equipment through a good distributor rather than purchase in huge quantities direct from a manufacturer. One of the best distributors in my experience is BayWa r.e. or Baywa for short. They are based in Santa Fe New Mexico, and their parent company is an $18b multi-national equipment/energy company based in Germany.

Other companies distribute solar equipment, but one of the reasons I like working with BayWa is that their team is responsive, efficient and likes what they are doing. These benefits are a result of their corporate culture…yes, I know, a fuzzy term – but it really makes a difference in the competitive solar industry.

Please listen to this week’s Energy Show as we speak with Boaz Soifer, CEO of BayWa. He’ll explain how he has shaped their culture to drive success at BayWa, and also discuss his insights into the common elements of successful solar companies.

2020 Solar Policy Hindsight with Adam Browning

2020 Solar Policy Hindsight with Adam Browning

The United States is a representative democracy. Citizens vote for politicians who, theoretically, advocate for their needs: things like better healthcare, lower taxes, cleaner air, and new technologies such as solar. But one cannot check off the “solar” box on a voting ballot. Instead, we have to vote for elected officials whom we trust will work on solar policy on our behalf.

Vote Solar was founded in 2002 by Adam Browning and David Hochschild to bring solar into the mainstream by helping to shape solar policy. Among the policy wins that Vote Solar has achieved includes incentives (tax credits and rebates), modernizing our electric grid, expanding access to solar and storage technologies across all economic sectors, and advocating for solar + storage friendly electric rates.

Polls across the U.S. show that solar and renewable energy rate 90% and higher in the minds of voters . The challenge is turning that latent voting power into actual political power. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as Adam Browning, Vote Solar’s Executive Director, explains how their advocacy efforts have achieved so many solar wins to date — along with the hard work we all have ahead of us as we make solar a mainstream energy source throughout the U.S.

Legal Issues for PG&E’s Bankruptcy with Angela Liponovich of Estriatus Law

Legal Issues for PG&E’s Bankruptcy with Angela Liponovich of Estriatus Law

PG&E’s bankruptcy will have a dramatic effect on all electricity users in northern California — as well as utility investors, California taxpayers, and the solar industry in general. Moreover, the bankruptcy of one of the largest utilities in the country is a harbinger of the need to change the traditional utility business model. Not only are utilities experiencing competition from businesses and homeowners installing their own solar and storage systems (for less money), but utilities are also experiencing much greater than expected costs related to maintaining their transmission and distribution services. Devastating fires are more common, people are living in more fire-prone areas, our need for electricity is increasing … and this situation is likely to get worse. (more…)