Sun Up (11/17/11)

Sun Up Dan Shugar, CEO, Solaria Tom Dinwoodie, CTO, SunPower In the wake of the collapse of solar panel maker Solyndra, the solar industry has received front-page treatment for the first time. Unfortunately, most of the coverage has been negative and ill-informed. In danger of being lost, industry veterans Dan Shugar and Tom Dinwoodie tell this Climate One audience is the good news – that solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. Dan Shugar, CEO, Solaria, offers a sense of the scale of the growth. “Solar is, for the last 10 years, the fastest-growing energy technology,” he says, recording 69% annually compounded growth, 10 years in a row. “Last year, our industry manufactured, shipped, and installed for homes, businesses, and power plants 17 gigawatts of power. That’s the daytime equivalent of what 17 nuclear power plants put out,” he says. Tom Dinwoodie, CTO, SunPower, adds that even assuming a slower annual growth rate, say 15%, solar could supply 100% of the United States’ electricity requirement by 2040. “In the last three years, if you just look at North America, there’s been three times more wind and solar installations, in megawatts installed, than coal,” says Dan Shugar. Dinwoodie and Shugar also address two recent events that have buffeted the industry – German firm SolarWorld’s WTO complaint alleging that Chinese state support has facilitated the flooding of the market with low-cost panels, and the bankruptcy of Solyndra. Yes, the SolarWorld dumping complaint has divided the industry, says Dinwoodie. But “you’ll see demand in the world pick up as a result of these low costs, and there will be more a supply-demand balance in the future.” Overlooked in media coverage of the issue, Dan Shugar adds, is that China maintains a 17% import duty on foreign panels. “We think having a conversation and trying to level the playing field would be the right way to go about equalizing that,” he says. On Solyndra, Dinwoodie says the firm “is basically a victim of the success of the solar industry.” Remember, adds Dan Shugar, that Solyndra’s loan guarantee, even at $535 million, represented just 2% of the Department of Energy loan guarantee portfolio. The real issue, he argues, is that “in a capital-starved economy, which is what we are now, it’s very difficult to get loans for proven manufacturing entities.” This program was recorded in front of a live audience at The Commonwealth Club of California on November 17, 2011 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

by Climate One