Is Solar Energy Back on the Agenda?

“The time to embrace a clean energy future is now,” said the President during his talk on the BP oil spill earlier this month. For much of the past year, the nation’s energy policy has played second fiddle to , well, everything else, but primarily health care and most recently financial reform.  Deadlines have come and gone, and with the mid-terms elections around the corner, it is hard to see how Obama will pick a rabbit out of the hat and push the energy agenda forward.

What is clear is that as states and local governments are cutting back on their solar energy programs, just at the time when the solar industry needs this support the most. The Maryland program cut its rebate program with only a few days notice. Take a look at our SolarTown news stories to read about some of the states that are throwing their renewable energy programs to the wind in an effort to close budget gaps.

This trend is even more pronounced abroad and as we reported last week, both Spain and Germany, solar world leaders are apt to cut back on their programs. In an effort to beat the impending reduction in the German feed-in tariff, solar module supplies have been redirected from the US to Europe. We received a call earlier this week from a project manager in Europe looking for a supply of a small quantity of solar panels for a project in Central Europe. “Twenty panels. I am sure that we can find one of the discount solar panels that we carry to meet your needs,” I said. “Not twenty panels—20,000 panels,” was the response.

This swift changing of the incentives can only disrupt the growth of the industry. It is causing some absurd supply disruptions. We are also getting calls from installers throughout the country who are desperate to find a certain model solar module—the one on which they bid a project, but that is no longer available.  The supply disruptions have hit the Canadian Solar panels especially hard, but we still expect to sell Canadian Solar solar panels, particularly the CSI 225 and the CSI 240 solar modules during the summer, but then we do not know what the solar winds will bring. Many suppliers are starting to market comparable brands like the Trina Solar panels and Solon solar panels, which are available through SolarTown.  

We still think that as module costs have been decreased, installation costs have decreased, and the economic incentives are still in place, now is an opportune time to go solar. But one feels that until the economic incentives particularly at the state and local level are stabilized, that there will continue to be some discomfiture in the air. Yes, as the president said during his speech, “small businesses are making solar panels.” But we still need to assure that homeowners will be able to install those solar panels on their homes.

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