GreentechMedia has written a nice feature about the upcoming autumn milestone of10 gigawatts of solar installed in 2010. They asked me and a handful ofmy fellow solar industry comrades to reflect on the event. Here are mycomments from Part 1, and you can see the full article here.
When we started in 1998, 10 gigawatts was not even adream. We spoke in kilowatts. After we hired our first full-time salesperson in 2005 (Bob Lewis, a real professional), we used to joke thatsomeday we’d talk in megawatts (and then laughed, because we just had).
Before solar, I was a consulting engineer, and I designed hospitals andlaboratory facilities. A rough calculation indicated that the buildings I was involved with would take about 100 megawatts of solar to operateyear-round. So that was what my ’super stretch goal’ became. I thoughtthat if I could install that in a long career, well, I’d be way off thecharts. Now, not only does it look like groSolar will hit that mark,sooner rather than later (2011? 2012?), that goal is no longer crazy orunimaginable.
It is heartening to me to be part of the broad leadership that is moving us toward a solar future. It is also frustrating that we are only nowreaching the 10 gigawatt mark, and that we still are not seeing,especially in the U.S., the groundswell in cultural perception needed to truly transform the industry, and thus the energy industry, and thusthe world. OK, it is a big job, but naiveté has gotten me this far!
Of course, when we get to the 10-gigawatt mark, I’ll need to remember to say “Yay!” When we were a young company, we used to celebrate everysingle kilowatt sale, every half-kilowatt sale. A 3-kilowatt sale wouldgive us at least part of the afternoon off. Now, we sell a megawattproject and I try to send a brief email to let others know about it.
As we move into gigawatts, it appears that the ball is getting bigger,and the hill steeper. I am looking forward to the day when the slopelevels out, but I doubt it will come very soon. This is my way ofsaying, celebrate the success, but don’t rest on the laurels for onesecond. Unlike many industries, there are those who would happily see us fail, and would gladly assist us in failing.
Let’s develop a new goal for the industry. Is it 100 gigawatts by 2020?Seems too low, as that would be less than 10 gigawatts per year. So isit 1000 gigawatts by 2020? That’s less than doubling each year, butstill impressive. (But is it beyond the speed of transformative events?) Don’t set it too low; we need solar to hit stretch goals, becausethat’s where solar solves some problems. Below that, it’s just a niceside industry.
-Jeff Wolfe, CEO, groSolar