Blogs > Sara Gutterman > September 2012 > A Powerful Sun Punch

A Powerful Sun Punch

I have spent the past two days at the Solar Power International (SPI) conference in Orlando, which is appropriate given that enough sunlight floods the state of Florida each day to power the entire nation for a year.

During my time here, I have been duly impressed by the broad spectrum of intelligent clean energy systems, innovative leasing and financing models that finally make solar affordable, and passionate entrepreneurs who are dreaming up creative solutions and public/private partnerships to push solar into the market.

Unlike many of the building conferences that I have attended over the past few years, people here are not lamenting today’s housing metrics. They’re not looking to the past to determine how we define a successful future. On the contrary—with an annual growth rate over 100%, the solar industry is building its own rocket ship that will transport the sector into a completely different galaxy, far, far away from its previous 30-year slumber.

The excitement is visceral. At one booth, a senior executive is so animated as he tells me about his panels with over 18% efficiency that he trips over a chair. At another booth, a Fortune 500 company President, CEO, and VP Marketing interrupt each other as they reveal with glee details about the expansion of their solar products and services portfolio.

People in the solar industry are savvy enough to know that there are still many obstacles to surmount before we receive broad adoption of solar technology in this country. They realize that their biggest competitor is not necessarily the guy in the booth down the aisle—it’s the big oil company that has seemingly endless resources to stroke checks to elect our policy makers and other market influencers. Nonetheless, the mood is optimistic.

The solar industry’s opportunity was perhaps best illustrated by keynote speaker President Bill Clinton. He was referring to an annual contest held by a large international network of independent business schools, where 3 global issues are presented and the winner is the student or team that submits the most innovative and viable solution to one of those problems.

In last year’s competition, relayed Clinton, one of the three global issues had to do with bringing distributed solar power to communities around the country. The winning team was from New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus and comprised of four students - one from India, one from Pakistan, one from China, and one from Taiwan. As photos were being taken, Clinton jokingly asked the students if they had any aversion to posing together, given the history of tension between their countries. The students, slightly bemused and annoyed, responded in unison, “We are so over it.”

Those students, as well as many others at this conference, throughout our nation, and across the globe, are tearing down old barriers and setting aside historical conflicts to build a new, bright future for our planet. If we chose not to embrace this fresh way of thinking to create viable economic solutions for a clean future, we will simply become irrelevant.

What innovating things are you doing in your community to facilitate a more sustainable future? Write to me at, follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.

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Posted: 9/13/2012 10:50:28 AM by Mary Kestner | with 0 comments

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