HeatSpring TV is a video podcast where we interview leaders in the geothermal and solar industry to keep up to date with what is happening on the front lines. We focus our interviews on policy, new product innovations, new business model innovations, and other significant industry news.
Vermont has long been on the cutting edge of renewable energy and energy efficiency. They like to get stuff done, from solar permitting to efficiency and biomass. Two weeks ago, I spoke with executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, Gabrielle Stebbins to learn a little more about the current state of the industry, and where […]
Can We Eliminate Residential Solar Financing? A Conversation About Driving Down PV Costs with Barry Cinnamon from Westinghouse Solar
This is a great thought experiment. Can we make solar PV so simple and cheap that we’ll no longer need residential solar financing? Jigar Shah thinks so. Shouldn’t the goal of the PV industry be to NOT need financing? Or, are there technology constraints that will make financing always needed? Like for automobile market. This is a thought that came up in a recent conversation I had with Barry Cinnamon, the CEO of Westinghouse Solar.
Last April, I wrote a post titled “Will Home Depot Kill the Residential Solar Market?” that was first published in cleantechies and then picked up by Reuters. Home Depots goal was to use their massive supply chain bring solar to the masses and reduce installed costs. The article unpacked some fears that solar professionals were having about big box stores entering the solar supply chain and if that would have a large impact on the solar market. The article dug into industry specifics around pricing, permitting, incentives, and comparisons to other trades to determine if contractors would favor the move and also discussed the implications of major brands backing solar. I published the post a little less then 11 months ago and since then all my assumptions have been correct. I havent’ spoke to a single contractors that does business directly with Home Depot to supply their equipment. I think the reason is simple, the technology requires support. It’s still too complicated and a large majority of companies are not comfortable enough with it to buy it from a big box store when no technical support.
Last week, Barry Cinnamon from Westinghouse Solar reached out to me bring up the article and say he felt the reason Home Depot has not helped the solar industry much. I responded to Barry for 3 reasons. First, he wasn’t a PR person. Sorry PR friends 🙂 Second, he brought up a good point, the solar being sold through Home Depot was too complicated. Third, it was too expensive. So, I decided to do an interview with Barry to get his perspective about technology and business model innovations within solar that are using common sense to make solar cheaper and easier.
Here are the highlights from our discussion.
After talking with Barry about their continued efforts to simplify solar, I realized an interesting point. Isn’t the goal of the solar PV industry to be to not NEED solar financiers? Like Solyndra. Reduce the costs of solar so much that most homeowners will not need financing.
Westinghouse’s best customers are completely new to solar. They’ll never need to learn string sizing, temperature coefficients, and residential solar will become extremely simple.
Barry said that AC modules are seeing a 50% direct labor reduction compared to industry norms. They’re seeing around 6 to 7 man hours per kW on residential installations compared with the industry average 10 to 11 hours per kW
For the fourth part of my interview series with BrightGrid Renewable Energy Finace, I spoke with Tim Slavin, VP of Credit and Operations at BrightGrid. We talked about a solar installer should be asking from their manufacturing partners and how solar installers should select a partner to work with.
The BrightGrid series is for residential solar […]
Here is something I did not know. It has been as difficult for renewable energy companies to find amazing talent, as it has been for professionals to find a job in the renewable energy industry.
Last week, I had an enlightening conversation with Karen Biscoe of Green Search Partner about her experience recruiting in the renewable energy industry in New England. Karen is the first recruiter I’ve ever spoken with and she has an amazing perspective on the industry because she has an inside view of companies that are growing rapidly and looking for talent. She knows what companies are struggling with, why they’re hiring, what skills they are looking for, what mistakes rapidly growing companies tend to make and what they’re good at. The insights she has on a company’s hiring process also puts her in the perfect position to advise professionals looking to get into the industry. She knows what technologies are hot, skills are required and what makes candidates stand out.
If you’re a company that would like to speak with Karen about recruiting, or a professional looking for a new challenge, you can reach her at 781 523 1906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the highlights from our conversation
When you meet someone you really like, act quickly. The job market is picking up and talent doesn’t wait.
Just because companies are not posting jobs, doesn’t mean they’re not hiring. Some don’t want to deal with hundreds of resumes.
The balance of technology knowledge and job specific skills mix will largely depend on the company in question and what stage they are in. There is not rule.
One of our goals in 2012 is to explore what can be done to make geothermal a mainstream technology.
To get some more insights into what we need to do as an industry, I had a conversion with Harold, the founder and CEO of 360Chestnut.
The discussion is around 20 minutes, here is what we talked about:
What 360 Chestnut is doing around educating homeowners about geothermal.
Why Harold loves his geothermal system more then his kids (sometimes).
How and why Harold decided to get into the geothermal industry.
What are your thoughts on installing geothermal versus upgrading the shell of a building?
What is the story of 360 Chestnut? Why was it created and what specifically are you working on within the geothermal industry?
Why every home should be at least consider geothermal.
Do you think 360 Chestnut is more of a ‘geothermal missionary’, someone who is converting non-believers, or are you preaching to the choir, are you looking to find the people that already want geothermal?
What do you see as the main problems with geothermal industry going mainstream?
How does the fragmented geothermal industry, both in manufactures and installers, make it difficult for the industry to market itself to homeowners?
Why should a contractor work with 360 Chestnut instead of creating their own site that attracts homeowners? Why would a homeowner go to your site first, instead of companies that are actually doing the installations?