With 2015 right around the corner, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year and think about how we as the solar industry can improve. Since 2014 was a good year for the industry, here are three New Year’s resolutions for the U.S. solar community to keep in mind for a happy and healthy 2015.
Trim down (costs)
The solar industry has been on a multiyear fitness kick and has shed dollars per watt off of installed systems costs. Component and project costs are looking pretty svelte, and the industry can see the outline of that elusive grid-parity in the mirror. Unfortunately, those last few cents per watt are stubborn and hard to shave off. We’ve already trimmed down the costs of major components through scaling up factories and improving manufacturing processes. To get to that next level of cost reduction, we need to target areas that have been generally overlooked. By focusing on customer acquisition and other soft costs, 2015 can be the year the solar industry turns the heads of mainstream customers.
Get (politically) organized
Let’s face it, the solar industry is not very politically organized and that has inhibited our success in Washington, DC, as well as in state houses across the country. Joining SEIA and your state-level SEIA, and supporting Vote Solar are great ways to clarify your political priorities and articulate how the regional and national energy systems should be arranged to support solar growth. But joining is just the beginning. Once you’ve become involved, then it’s time to start trying to rearrange the system so it works for you.
Contact your elected officials and tell them what the industry needs. Better yet, invite them to your office or a job site to show them firsthand how solar supports a clean and growing economy. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the good work your company is doing, the industry’s massive growth and impressive job creation, and how specific government actions can help foster the solar boom.
Like any New Year’s resolution, it’s easier to get organized if you do it with a friend, so try to get your vendors and customers involved too.
Spend more time with friends
Speaking of industry friends, we are stronger when we share ideas and learn from each other. Although we are all so busy working on growing our businesses, it’s important to step back, reconnect with allies, and see how we can help each other out. Plus, spending time with other solar folks is just plain fun.
There are many ways to keep in touch and share ideas. Attending national or regional conferences allows you to reconnect with hundreds of people in a few short days while getting updated on the latest industry developments. Between conferences, check out solar social functions like a happy hour, bike ride, or softball game. If it doesn’t exist in your area, make it happen (and tell your local SEIA chapter)!
Whatever it is, commit!
When coming up with your New Year’s resolutions, keep in mind that they are almost always broken by February. Your solar resolutions will only be as good as your commitment to them. Whether you resolve to trim costs, get organized, stay in touch, or just try something new, make a plan with measurable results and deadlines to hold yourself accountable. If you do that, hopefully by the time 2016 rolls around, you’ll be another year older, but more importantly, you’ll be another year wiser.
What are your resolutions for making 2015 a great year for the industry and helping add gigawatts of solar generating capacity across the U.S.?
Since 2008, Carter Lavin has helped over two dozen clean energy organizations connect with their audiences. His experience includes launching PR and inside sales efforts, organizing and managing conferences, trade show marketing, market research, and managing social media campaigns. Carter has worked in nearly every sector of the solar industry, including thin-film and crystalline module manufacturers, trade groups, installation, micro and string inverter manufacturers, off-grid hybrid power systems providers, energy monitoring software developers, and racking. He earned a BS from Georgetown University, where he studied international energy and environmental security. Follow Carter on Twitter @CarterLavin