Solar Forces a Change in Behavior

I think it was Nathan Lewis of the California Institute of Technology who first said that solar energy-generated electricity does nothing "new." People already have electricity.  And that is true.  Solar doesn't offer an improvement in capability.  But that's not the real barrier to the public's adoption of solar power.

Most emerging technologies are introduced when their performance is not as well developed as established products.  And in order to become competitive over time, technologies like solar must be refined and improved by a sequence of users (starting with innovators and early adopters).

The key issue here is not that solar is an under-developed technology or that solar provides something people already have.  The key issue is that solar, like many technologies, forces a change in behavior.  With solar you must have panels (or PV material) installed, rather than use a built-in connection to the grid.

A recent survey by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) as reported on Renewable Energy World indicates people are in favor of solar power but would prefer that it is supplied by their utility.  Why would 75% of people surveyed want their utility to install solar?  Because that way they can realize the environmental and renewable benefits of solar, without changing their behavior.

As long as everyone agrees that centralized solar electric power delivered through a grid is the best path to a sustainable future, then our objectives are clear.  We need to focus on utility-scale solar and improve our centralized system of delivery.

However, if distributed generation and residential solar are a better way to go, we need to find a way to get people to change their behavior.  And getting people to change their behavior requires more than just cost reduction and government subsidies.  Encouraging people to change their behavior requires the influence or involvement of preceding groups of people in the marketplace

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