SPI Report: Bill Clinton Talks Solar Sense

Clinton: Industry Has Failed to Educate Americans

clintonFormer President Bill Clinton, addressing several thousand attendees at Solar Power International on Wednesday, promised that renewable energy will win its battle for acceptance and broad installation. “The only question is when, where and how,” he said.

“Most Americans don’t know that the solar industry employs more than 100,000 people – more than the coal industry,” Clinton said. “They don’t know that renewable energy sustained an 8 percent growth rate through the worst years of the recession. . . . and they don’t know that the United States pays $22 in subsidies to oil, coal and nuclear power for every $1 invested in renewable energy. . .  An enormous number of people don’t know that solar is affordable now, and there’s still a lot of underbrush to clear to get it installed.”

Clinton, whose presidential campaigns devised a “war room” method of responding immediately to opposition tactics, decried the misleading attacks promulgated against clean energy after the Solyndra bankruptcy. “The industry made a mistake in not defending itself,” he said. While the Department of Energy loan guarantee programs have been a great success, “you can’t quit after one mistake,” he said. “Get the basic facts in front of the American people. We’ve had oil subsidies since 1916, but they sink dry wells and still get the tax credit.”

Clinton returned repeatedly to the theme that the most successful economies thrive on private/public partnerships and policy support for productive ventures. Regarding the upcoming election, Clinton noted that Mitt Romney and Republican candidates in general promise to cancel all government programs encouraging non-fossil energy development.

“Listen carefully to what politicians say,” he said. “They are much more honest than you think, during a campaign. What they say they are going to do is usually what they will in fact attempt to do.”

In presenting the solar-business cause to politicians of both parties, Clinton offered three pieces of advice: “Make sure the candidates know what you’ve done and what policy helped you do it. Provide visible manifestations of progress. And do what you can with what you’ve got right now. You’re reaching the tipping point. People will soon see that it’s good for the economy, good for national security and good for the climate.”

Solon Launches Tool-free U-bolt Interconnect

Solon, purchased out of bankruptcy last spring by India’s Microsol (headquartered in the United Arab Emirates), has taken on new vigor as an Arizona-based factory. Its lightweight SolQuick integrated module/racking system got a nifty upgrade last month with the introduction of a glass-filled nylon U-bolt that snaps through the laminated Fibrex frame channels in several configurations to lock adjoining modules together without the use of tools.

The result, says John Rethans, director of project management, is even faster assembly, without risk of misalignment, roof membrane punctures or even of dropped tools. “Rafted” modules offer better wind stability for the flat-roof array, because they ballast one another. The arrays, designed for weight-constrained and older flat roofs, spread their weight at about 3 lb. per square foot.

“In two 500-kilowatt jobs recently we were able to install up to about 4.6 killowatts per worker-hour,” Rethans said.

LG, Playing a Long Game, Awaits National Standard

LG, the big South Korean appliance and mobile-phone maker, has silicon modules for sale here. And they’re clearly capable of making inverters. They make the batteries for the Chevy Volt and a number of EVs.

With this expertise, plus its own LED lighting, smart-metering and monitor/control technology, LG already sells home-energy management systems in Korea. Most of the new high rises and condo developments there use them.

But Joe Park, senior marketing manager in the company’s New Jersey offices, says LG is in no hurry to introduce new energy-management products outside of its domestic market.

“We have a group of 250 people developing solar products, including inverters, microinverters, thin film and bifacial silicon modules,” Park said. “We have the money and the power to manufacture these products now, but must wait for a sustainable market.”

In inverters, LG is wary of a coming invasion of western markets by Chinese products. LG wants to wait for consolidation to begin in the inverter market before introducing its own designs.

In home-energy management, Park said, the company will wait, somewhat optimistically, for a more unified North American market, with national standards for interoperability. Then, he said, he’ll expect any home appliance or system to be controlled from anywhere, via cell phone.

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