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Oct 2, 2012  | Tom Cheyney  | 7 Comments

Solar wins in a landslide

Latest poll shows strong support for solar, examining ‘true costs’ and misconceptions, Kickstarter microsolar wrap-up, blogospheric disturbances

The results are in, and yet again, the American people have come out strongly for solar, regardless of political affiliation. In a new national survey of over 1200 voters conducted by Hart Research on behalf of SEIA, an astounding 92% of those polled responded that the U.S. should develop and use more solar power, with the percentages ranging from 84% of Republicans to 98% of Democrats. Even with a margin of error of ±2.8%, these are ridiculously overwhelming numbers that are rarely seen in any kind of polling data. The respondents also showed strong support—78%–for government incentives and tax credits that promote solar growth. Some 85% view solar favorably as a source of energy, placing it tops on the list, kicking coal’s, oil’s and nuke’s butts, which scored 32%, 42%, and 43%, respectively. There’s plenty of coverage out there on this story, but SEIA’s own site contains enough info on the survey for all but the most wonky.

Despite the nearly universal support of the concept of solar energy by Americans, many still don’t have a clue about the reality of how much costs have plummeted, the relative ease of financing a residential system, solar’s emergence as a solid long-term asset class, and other factors that have made investing in the sunny solution ever more attractive. Thanks to a LinkedIn head’s up from Carter Lavin, one of the young stalwarts in the solar marketing space, the Curator can belatedly recommend a feature titled “The True Costs of Solar” from the September edition of Sun & Wind Energy magazine. (A handy PDF version can be found here, since the publication website is stingy about offering content to nonsubscribers.) Carter is among the sources quoted in the article, which provides a valuable overview of the marketing and educational challenges facing the solar industry as it makes the case for clean PV energy now, not in some ill-defined future scenario. “Solar power is held to a standard that other purchases aren’t,” Lavin points out while discussing residential solar leasing plans. “No one buys a house or car in cash, so why build a solar array with upfront cash?”

The Curator took a shine to–and shined a light on–a trio of microsolar-related Kickstarter projects several weeks back, all of which beat their goals handily once the final crowd-funding numbers were tallied a couple of weeks ago. The Solar Pocket Factory attracted 1174 backers to contribute $77, 504 on a goal of $50,000, the SunVolt portable PV system saw 590 supporters help raise $67,014 on a goal of $30,000, and Peppermint Energy’s Forty2 solar “suitcase” found 284 folks to pitch in with $83,286 on a goal of $25,000. In sum, the projects saw 2048 backers (duplicate and triplicate contributions from certain individuals notwithstanding) part with $227,804 (an amount nearly 117% over the collective goal), an average of $111.23 per backer. The Forty2 surpassed its goal by 233%, with its sponsors sending in an average of about $293 apiece. On the other end of the spectrum, the pocket factory team had almost double the number of backers as the SunVolt project (and 4X the Forty2), averaging $66 per donation.

One final Kickstarter note: it seems I have but a single degree of separation from Alex Hornstein, one of the coinventors of the PV pocket factory. He emailed me shortly after the original Curator’s Desk column about his project went up in mid-August, telling me: “It’s f***ing awesome that the first thing in your post is about I See Hawks in L.A. I first got into that band when I was living in a lovely rotting apartment in Echo Park [a neighborhood in L.A.], and I still dig them. Wicked cool.” If that wasn’t cool enough, my old pal Ed Korczynski also contacted me, noting that Alex was in the same fraternity as he was at MIT.

Elsewhere on the indie solar front, a previously unknown-to-the-Curator outpost of exposition, “No More Naked Roofs: A Blog About Solar Energy,” has caught my attention. The blog is anonymous, so I reached out via the generic Gmail address and heard back from Jared, the proprietor of NMNR. He doesn’t want to share his last name, but he did offer a bit of background info, noting that “I like to fish, I like to surf, I like to hunt, and I love to watch ‘The Real Housewives’ on Bravo.” He also told me he’s a regular visitor to SolarCurator and thinks I do “an excellent job” on the site. (Non-disclaimer: He offered his compliments without prompting or cash payment.)

With hundreds of posts under his belt, Jared writes at least a blog a day on average, usually in punchy, opinionated, often humorous bursts commenting on various news stories and trends in the solar community and the world at large. He’s not afraid to, as the Brits like to say, take the piss out of pompous politicians, solar windbags, clueless celebrities, and other purveyors of perceived horse pucky. In a recent example, although I don’t see eye to eye with him on the controversy over Shoals Technologies’ ill-advised “Nice Rack” advertising campaign (corrected from original: I don’t see eye to eye with him..), I respect that he offered a contrary viewpoint, pointing to what he sees as some hypocrisy (Trina Solar sponsoring Formula One racing…hmmm) lurking among all the hubbub. His last paragraph in the post draws an analogy that is likely to make members of the upright politically correct citizens brigade cringe. But it’s that independent-minded willingness to push the envelope that makes NMNR a refreshing read.


Sources: SEIA, Sun & Wind Energy, LinkedIn, Kickstarter, SolarCurator, No More Naked Roofs, Greentech Media,

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