Solar Q&A With Blueshift Research

We were sent a questionnaire about the solar industry and I thought I’d share my responses to this national research firm…

Q. Please tell me about yourself and your company and organization in brief.

A. My name is Jeff Shaw and I am the owner and founder of Gulf South Solar, a solar installation company since 2003. I am a degreed engineer, licensed electrical contractor, and NABCEP certified installer. We service Louisiana and the gulf coast.

Q. What is the status of the solar industry in your region/state?

A. Louisiana has the best tax credit in the country, and has since 2008, which has rapidly accelerated solar installations. There is some uncertainty about the future of solar in LA due to the potential changes in the net-metering policy currently under review at the Public Service Commission.

Q. What are the major roadblocks to adoption of solar energy in the U.S., in your opinion? (financial, tax/government incentives, technical, regulatory, political etc.)

A. If the U.S. wants to continue the trend of energy independence, green jobs growth, and better environmental stewardship it should continue tax credits past 2016 and adopt national net-metering policy.

Q. What impact do the initial solar equipment costs and installation costs have on adoption?

A. To some customers, costs are no object. In the beginning we installed systems at $10/watt with no incentive for people that had a reason for solar (independence, backup power, environmental reasons). With increased incentives and lower costs (in Louisiana it is $.70/watt), adopters are now turning to solar for financial reasons.

Q. Will the increase in leasing options lead to a faster pace of adoption? Why or why not? How important are financing options both for residential and commercial customers in today’s solar market?

A. Leasing combined with tax credits, opens the door for high profits to leasing companies and low ROI’s for homeowners, but it does lead to faster adoption. Leasing puts solar in the hands of homeowners that wouldn’t normally have the ability to buy solar just as rent-to-own appliance and furniture stores allow homeowners with lower income to furnish their house.

Q. The cost of gas and oil has dropped significantly recently and is expected to remain low for some time. How will this impact the adoption of solar energy?

A. The lower natural gas prices allow for lower cost utilities which increase the payback time for solar power systems. If the reason to purchase was purely financial, and the payback was longer than 7 years, a purchaser may stop and think about their investment.

Q. Will the falling costs of solar energy production pave the wave for solar to become the “must have” energy source in the U.S. in the next 5-10 years? Why or why not?

A. Not really. As solar prices drop and energy prices rise, more utility customers will elect to offset more of their bill with solar. When grid parity is reached, it will become a matter of logistics of whether the site can accommodate the arrays.

Q. Are the current solar energy economics aligned for mainstream use and adoption? Why or why not?

A. With either elevated utility prices or subsidies the economics work out for mainstream adoption.

Q. Where and how does energy storage technology fit into the solar energy picture?

A. Half of our customers elect to go with storage, so we design systems with that in mind. To us, it gives our customers independence, peace of mind and more options than solar alone.