Funny things are happening in the world of photovoltaics. First there was a big investment boom in solar energy companies. Hooray! But then China started producing solar panels so cheaply that it drove a lot of US companies out of business. Boo! But wait… cheap solar panels are cheap solar panels wherever they happen to be made, so that’s good news, right? Good for the consumer, anyway. Now you can buy a cheap solar panel and stick it on your roof, and… wait. How would you do that? Do you just plug it in, or call up your electrician, or what?
All this drives home the point that the actual bottleneck is now in the installation. Homeowners aren’t yet seeing the benefit of those low prices. Fortunately there is plenty of action on that front, as described in this Reuters analysis: As solar panels eclipsed, installers in limelight.
SolarCity, which specializes in installation, offers packages like SolarLease, where they take care of everything and you just pay a lower bill. They’re taking a hefty cut, of course, but all you have to do is gesture at your roof and say “put it there.” It sounds like a winning strategy to me. Most of us aren’t willing to do a big capital outlay to fund a solar farm. But I bet a lot of folks will sign up for a low-hassle lease. We need large competent companies that specialize in doing exactly that. I hope SolarCity is such a company.
Change comes when the exotic becomes ordinary. Already hybrid cars like the Prius are nothing special. Yawn. And now friends of mine getting solar installations. Maybe next year it’ll be no big deal. Hooray for boring!