We don’t get no respect . . .

As Jigar Shah, (founder of SunEdison, currently CEO of Carbonwarroom) says, photovoltaic solar (PV) energy is a competitive, high value energy generation source that hasn’t received the widespread respect it deserves.

My observation from the past 10 years of involvement in the industry is that part of this respect problem comes from a large and constant drum beat of erroneous and just plain bad journalism about solar energy.  While the intention of many writers is to present the exciting aspects of a rapidly growing green industry, many miss the mark continually due to minimal research on what is otherwise a highly complex and active industry with numerous variables and a large number of different technologies.

A recent example can be found here from Brian Palmer of the Washington Post, and a well-written rebuttal from PV industry veteran Tom Cheney here. When you read the article and then read Tom’s response, you get a very good idea of the complexity and variables the writer missed.

solar panel, solar energy

Weatherized Against Hail. Fragile?

Another preposterous article comes from Alex Kingsbury at U.S. News & World Report. In his piece about the optimism and growth of the solar energy industry, he goes on to make the claim that PV solar panels are highly fragile and need almost constant, round the clock maintenance.  The lunacy of this statement is that simple research reveals that photovoltaic solar modules carry a 25 year warranty and need almost no maintenance annually. The solar panel itself has no moving parts so there are no parts to replace and the solar cells are encased in laminates with a glass cover sheet for weatherization against the environment. The modules meet a rating standard for large hail impact, so I am not sure why he believes solar panels are fragile. While inverters, which condition the power from DC to AC, need to be replaced on a 10 year cycle, this a minor cost compared to the overall photovoltaic solar system benefit.

This type of misinformation is not just reserved for journalists and bloggers. Senator John Kyl from

Solar panel in solar energy farm

Solar PV Farms in Arizona

Arizona wrote an opinion piece recently in the Nogales International publication with a headline of, “Solar energy could be a drain on Arizona’s water supply”.  Clearly there is a behind-the-scenes political issue playing out in the press.  The article is riddled with inaccuracies about Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) which flashes water to steam and powers electric turbine generators.   The author doesn’t even bother to mention that photovoltaic solar energy systems use no water and are highly efficient in the desert Southwest climate. Arizona currently has a number of multiple megawatt PV systems operating within its borders with large, multiple 20MW – 100MW systems in the development stages. This omission is even more surprising given that largest photovoltaic solar company in the world, First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR), with revenues of over $2B, has its global headquarters in Tempe, Arizona.

Currently, energy generated from PV is at the same price of highly subsidized fossil fuel generated electricity (a.k.a. “grid parity”) in select markets where electric utility costs are high. Think California and many states in the North East. My subsequent post will show how solar grid parity is coming to over 80% of U.S. geographies in the next 3 years. This is a mature energy technology with the financing, technology and integration processes in place now. Respect is just around the corner . . . .

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