The Future of Solar: Determination & Democracy

Industry leaders from across the supply chain came together to talk about what lies ahead for the global solar industry during the Future of PV: Executive Panel at Intersolar North America. Dr. Eicke R. Weber, director of the Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore (BEARS) Program, moderated the discussion, which played on themes of innovation, economics and policy.

Jeffrey Barnett, Americas president of GCL System Integration Americas, reflected on the extensibility of renewables, stating his belief the market will reach “terawatt levels when we start thinking of clean energy as a platform as opposed to disparate technologies.” Dr. Dirk Habermann, chief innovation officer of Meyer Burger AG, described the need to rethink the current understanding of PV, believing the industry has been conservative in pushing the needle forward.

Dr. Martin Keller, director of NREL, celebrated how the industry has driven down costs but warned integration of materials and manufacturing must happen more aggressively in order to create the innovative technology to help us meet a renewables penetration goal of 80 percent. Keller echoed this sentiment when discussing international trade, asserting “if we are serious, we can use innovation to bring the supply chain back from China into the United States.”

Danny Kennedy, managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund, predicted the next ten years will be some of solar’s most riveting. “Change is the only constant as we go up exponentially.  We are now at the inflection moment. Companies and careers will be wrecked, reborn and lost again, we should be prepared for one hell of a ride,” said Kennedy.

Despite the lack support of the federal government, the panelists all agreed the industry needs to speak with one voice and solidify its position as the single largest employer in the energy industry. As energy becomes increasingly decentralized, regional ownership will provide the industry with local control over energy choices in the long term.