The following is an excerpt from the introductory comments at the Solar in New York event.
For the future success of solar energy, it’s vital that all of us, regardless of our political colors, make sure that solar is apolitical. I can hear the snickering already; what about Solyndra?
Let me assure you that there will be more Solyndras, just as there will be more Deepwater Horizons. The difference between Solyndra and Deepwater Horizon is 20 billion dollars. Solar energy is too vital for it to become the domain of party line politics.
Let me explain why briefly.
We need to wake up to the power of solar energy. We are about 93 million miles away from the sun but even from 93 million miles out, the Sun is so powerful it showers us with 9,000 times the energy we use.
It is virtually inexhaustible and available everywhere. We can extract its energy directly, so we don’t need fire or water to use it. The process is so benign that each of us can have a solar-energy power station on our roofs, and the EPA will not have to hold environmental-impact hearings.
I believe that Solar is at the beginning of its invention cycle—sort of like where the PC was in the early 80s, just before it took off. At the time, I bought my first PC. Co-workers and IT heads were saying, “What you going to do with that toy.” Well, I built a company of over 100 employees with that toy.
Back then, every new chip was so dazzling it made front page news. Those chips don’t hold a candle to what’s in your Smartphone today; let alone what’s in your computer.
The same kind of thing is starting to happen now with solar panels.
Some quick examples. The most advanced solar cells now on the market have an energy conversion ratio of 20%, well above the market average of 12 to 18%. Sharp Corporation has achieved 36% in experimental units. Last April, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory produced a solar cell with an efficiency level approaching 50%. Note how the technology advances are accelerating now that solar energy is finally gaining traction.
We are at the technology breakout point.
The PC changed many industries and created many jobs and even new industries. So too will Solar. Solar is a powerful job creator. Each megawatt of solar creates 10 installation jobs and 20 technology and management jobs. We can’t let what happened to the climate change debate happen to Solar. That’s why we must be careful not to politicize the process of getting solar energy accepted. Solar is America’s, and indeed our planet’s, next big tech transformation.