crunch the Solar numbers
• California Solar Statistics: californiasolar
• Clean Power Estimator, the GoSolar
California online calculator for photovoltaic
• Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, cost and economic analysis reports:
• “The Value Proposition of Solar Water Heating In California,” published by the California
Solar Energy Industries Association: calseia.
• OnGrid Solar Energy Systems, for financing
and economics courses and articles:
Inventor Saul Griffith, Ph.D., estimates
that making a difference in the fight against
climate change means installing 100 square meters
of photovoltaics every second for 25 years.
model of centralized generation and command-control grid technology. But retrofitting solar
into existing buildings will require standardizing the patchwork of local permitting procedures and utility interconnection standards.
That’s no small task, considering that the solar
industry itself is still developing common standards and protocols for communicating system
production and project economics.
The regulatory landscape is continually
shifting. Employers that must navigate these
regulatory challenges appreciate job applicants
who understand the basic issues. Or perhaps
you’ll invent the widget, software or business
model that alleviates a regulatory barrier.
ning different project variables through these
systems to note how the financial returns and
CO impacts change. Download the free Solar
Advisor Model software from the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory and practice
building your own estimates for solar electric,
solar thermal and utility-scale projects: nrel.
Finally, learn about the various mechanisms for project financing through articles
or distributor websites. These mechanisms
include power purchase agreements, system
leasing and property-tax and/or bond-funded
financing through local governments.
Learn the economics
At the project level, the financial picture
starts with equipment prices. At least half of
a PV system’s cost is based on module prices,
which is one reason the industry has a goal of
being able to price modules at less than a dollar
per watt (DC).
Representing almost three-quarters of PV
sales activity in the United States, California
offers a good benchmark for industry economics. One of the easiest ways to analyze
price trends and equipment sales is using the
California Solar Statistics database (california
solarstatistics.ca.gov). This searchable database
provides information on project costs, equipment used and more.
You can also learn a lot by studying project economics using the free online project
calculators used by solar customers. Try run-
• “California Feed-in Tariff Policies and
Legislation,” published by Solar Tech in April:
solartech.org, click on Publications
• Solar America Board for Codes and Standards: solarabcs.org
• Solar Electric Power Association: solar
• Interstate Renewable Energy Council:
Participate in the Solar Movement
Learning about solar industry resources is
where you begin to demonstrate your commitment and build the network essential to
launching your new solar career. The U.S.
industry is still fairly flat and easy to approach,
and there are many ways to get involved. Here
are just a few.
• Organizations: The American Solar
Energy Society ( ases.org) and its chapters,
the Solar Energy Industries Association (seia.
org) and chapters, Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), Florida Solar Energy Center,
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC),
VoteSolar, Solar Nation.
• Clicks: SolarBuzz.com, Renewable
EnergyWorld.com (REW), PV-Tech.org,
Subscribe to the e-newsletters and listen to
• Events: Attend the annual ASES National
Solar Conference along with events produced
by SEIA, SEPA, REW, IREC and the ASES and
SEIA regional chapters.
• Reads: SOLAR TODAY, Home Power,
Photon, Solar Pro and Renewable Energy World
• Volunteer Efforts: Get involved in solar
tours, help produce newsletters, educate local
business groups, bring pro-solar policies to
your community, produce You Tube videos on
solar, help install through Habitat for Humanity or other building nonprofits, raise money to
install solar on your local schools or help teachers use solar curriculum in the classroom.
• Projects: Build your own solar installations — from water fountains to whole-house
Like other segments of the economy, the
solar industry has experienced consolidation
as a result of the global economic recession.
Overseas players are also moving aggressively
to win U.S. markets. But we have many reasons
As industry expert and project lawyer Ed
Feo stated on a recent RenewableEnergy-World.com podcast, “[Y]ou’re starting to
see these little buds come out of the ground,
of term sheets being circulated and people
being interested in doing financing.” This year
we are benefitting from various types of support, including a 10-year, 30 percent federal
tax credit available to all customers, stimulus
funding for project grants (in lieu of tax credits
for applicable commercial projects) and falling
module prices. Congress may soon act to put a
price on carbon emissions so that green power
is even more price competitive.
As sure as the sun comes up every day,
now is the perfect time to learn about the
industry and take those first steps toward a
career in solar. ST