Solar will be number one power source in US: SEIA keynote from SPI

(October 13, 2010) -- In the opening address to Solar Power International, taking place this week in Los Angeles, CA, Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), highlighted solar energy's triumphs and the work left to be done. Below are main points, with a link to the full text of Resch's speech.

The Bureau of Land Management finalized permitting to allow the first-ever utility-scale solar projects on federal land. Chinese companies like Suntech are beginning to manufacture on US soil. And President Obama has decided to install solar panels on the White House. These are the results of collaboration in the industry and with citizens at large.

Resch also reported that solar energy is now the fastest growing energy source in the United States, which is currently dealing with the recession and 10% unemployment. Although photovoltaics is the fastest growing energy source, the fact remains that it is still the smallest. And to change this we need more than a patchwork of markets scattered around the country, said Resch, noting that a cohesive national vision is needed.

He predicts a future where solar becomes America’s number one source of new installed energy each year -- bigger than coal, natural gas, and nuclear. Resch envisions solar installs hitting 20x increases over last year, and wants to see 10 GW installed each year, by 2015.

In a solar-driven energy market, Resch forecasts 220,000 new solar jobs and half a million more supporting jobs in other industries. He believes this can raise $30 billion in direct economic growth and hundreds of billions of dollars in other sectors of the economy yearly. As of today, the solar industry employs nearly 100,000 people in the United States. Specifics are available in the National Solar Jobs Census from The Solar Foundation. Solar job growth is an example to state and federal policy makers across the country that solar is a good policy investment, said Resch. Look for a podcast interview with senior editor Debra Vogler about The Solar Foundation's Solar Jobs Census during Solar Power International.

Resch pointed to SEIA and GTM Research's partnership to generate accurate data and analysis of the U.S. solar market, all technologies and all market segments. The collaborative report, U.S. Solar Market Insight, is being released at Solar Power International.

Resch summarized the findings:

  • The U.S. solar electric market is growing by over 100% this year, exceeding 1GW. In the PV industry, all segments are having record years. In June, utility-scale installations already surpassed 2009 totals and residential and commercial installations continue to grow at a 40-50% rate.
  • America is also quickly becoming the largest CSP market in the world. Roughly 80 MW are expected to come online in 2010.
  • Solar water heating enjoys a sixth consecutive year of growth, jumping from 2.6 million square feet installed in 2009 to more than 3 million in 2010.
  • In the first half of 2010, U.S. manufacturers produced more than a third of the world’s polysilicon supply, over 500MW of cells and over 500MW of modules.
  • Three of the five energy businesses on FORTUNE 100’s list of Fastest Growing Companies are solar manufacturers: First Solar, Trina Solar and SunPower.

Solar is being installed throughout the US in many different settings, from crayon factories to landfills, which Resch considers encouraging for the goal of immersive solar power.

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Even though 94% of Americans think it is important for the U.S. to develop and use solar power, there are some who don’t -- particularly the powerful coal, oil and nuclear industries. Big Oil companies and other special interests spent $500 million in lobbying and campaign contributions to defeat the clean energy and climate legislation in Congress. Using their resources, they were able to delay and ultimately kill any hope of a national RPS or cap and trade program. Big Oil companies, led by the Koch Brothers, are spending millions of dollars supporting Proposition 23, a proposal that would kill AB 32 -- the most progressive clean economy legislation in the country, Resch told attendees, urging them to unite against these roadblocks. 80% of Americans believe that Congress should consider shifting federal support from fossil fuel industries to the solar industry. SEIA is convening a Solar Policy Summit in November to focus on this topic.

Without question, the biggest issue facing the solar industry is financing, Resch asserts. SEIA is holding a Solar Finance Summit next month in New York City to address this. The group is also working with the federal government to find new ways to provide financing. The DOE Loan Guarantee Program helps, but only for big projects.

Resch summarized the Solar Code of Ethics for attendees: As an industry, we must accurately represent our products and how they perform. We need to understand federal, state and local incentives and explain them properly to our customers. We must deliver systems that outperform and that meet all local and state codes. We must abide by high standards of environment, health and safety in the workplace and in our product lifecycle. And we must stand by our products and provide the highest level of customer service.

He then introduced Justin Cox to illustrate his "Team Solar" vision. Cox is a former member of the U.S. Army, who served seven years in the military, including two and a half years in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was wounded in action. Following his tour of duty overseas, he came home, and after being medically discharged, took a job with Sungevity. Cox says his solar industry work is another way to serve his country, "making a difference one roof at a time."

Resch called on the Solar Power International attendees to get involved with the solar industry trade groups, including political action funds, and especially to fight anti-solar legislation (Using Prop 23 in California as an example).

Read the full keynote transcript here:

SEIA’s booth at Solar Power International, 2427, has more information on the report and other solar industry data. The Solar Energy Industries Association is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Learn more at

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