Our home solar panel industry is growing steadily thanks to increased publicity, better advertising, a more positive reputation and improving technologies. That said, we are still years behind Europe when it comes to getting solar energy into the residential market.
I find that strange, especially considering our manufacturing base and the amount of sun at least half the country gets on a daily basis. We lag way behind Spain and Germany whose solar energy strategy has been helped considerably by their government enforcing feed-in-tariffs.
We have those in many states now and we are catching up, but considering that we pretty much invented the technology, we are still far behind. Getting home solar panels out there should be a priority for our own government. They are cheaper than new power stations, help our own panel manufacturers, and will help meet emissions targets.
Notice I said use our own manufacturers? Despite our somewhat unfair and ineffective protectionist legislation, Chinese manufacturers are flooding the market with much cheaper solar panels than we can make here. In fact, China is now the largest manufactures of home solar panels in the world.
President Obama wanted to make us the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy, but it’s already too late. China is already way ahead, and, thanks to government subsidies, the Chinese manufacturers can sell the home solar panels for less than it costs to make them.
Some Chinese companies are even setting up factories here to assemble their panels to circumvent our legislation. I’ll keep my opinions on international trade to myself for now, but I can’t help but be encouraged at the ramping up of home solar panel production.
Sure, we need to encourage domestic manufacturing and buy American wherever we can, but we also need to remain competitive. By making solar power more affordable, the Chinese are still helping our economy.
Home solar panels cost less, so a solar PV system costs less. We spend less on utilities, which we are then able to spend in the economy or pay off debts. So while I encourage everyone to buy American wherever they can, buying home solar panels from elsewhere still has some benefits.
So, back to the subject of falling behind, I found a news article from the UK yesterday that cemented the idea that we are lagging. A British council in the city of Birmingham approved a plan for fit home solar panels to 10,000 homes in its district free of charge.
The scheme aims to reduce the carbon emissions of the city and promote renewable energy to the rest of the country. This is all going to cost them $160 million (£100 million). In the middle of a recession, that’s quite a commitment to green energy.
While the world surges forward with solar technology, we’re ambling along at our own speed. It isn’t going to be long before we are too far behind to catch up.