November 11, 2009
Row after row of solar PV panels, both thin-film and regular, that produce electricity. Booth after booth of the inverters that connect the panels to the gird. Solar Power International in Anaheim, CA was a disappointment to anyone looking for real breakthroughs on the traditional solar PV front. But what it really showed was that solar energy has come of age. The products are commoditized and the issues are political. That’s good news for Ontario entrepreneurs.
By “commoditized”, I mean that the companies compete by finding small, incremental improvements over the competition, vying for market-share by being just that little bit more efficient. A panel is a panel is a panel. An inverter is an inverter is an inverter. Sure, some are better than others – but that’s just the point: each can be judged by its relative performance over the competition.
So the issues are now political – how to motivate the adoption of a technology still much more expensive than coal. For all you entrepreneurs out there, that problem has been solved in Ontario. The Feed-In Tariff guarantees a financial return on your solar investment and you’ve got whole world of competing suppliers to provide you with your panels. A commoditized supply chain and a guaranteed market for your goods – not a bad start to a business idea.
So what’s the only thing stopping you from putting up panels all over the province and being a zero-carbon utility? Financing. Not the easiest nut to crack in these time, but not exactly rocket science either.