Concerns about employment have become even more prominent in the US in the wake of the bursting of the latest, and arguably the deepest, financial and real estate bubble since the Great Depression.
By way of overcoming the current economic downturn and setting the foundation for healthier, more sustainable development and growth in the 21st century, “Going Green” has become the mantra for those who would like to see the US wean itself off its dependence on fossil fuels. The idea: Stimulate the development and adoption of clean technology and renewable energy.
The message is a powerful one, and companies such as Solar Energy Initiatives are aiming to capitalize on it. Based in Ponte Vedra, Florida, the solar energy systems dealer and integrator’s overarching strategy is defined in its “Renew the Nation” campaign and mission statement—”to help redeploy a portion of the US workforce and focus on reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels by selling solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) technologies.”
Solar Powered Government
Outfitting government buildings with renewable energy systems may be one of the quickest and most effective ways the federal government can stimulate adoption of renewable energy systems.
On Sept. 3, Solar Energy Initiatives announced that it had signed letters of intent worth $17 million with US municipalities to install and operate some 4-megawatts of PV systems on government buildings.
As per the terms of of a power purchase agreement, SEI will supply around 20,000 solar panels, install the systems on-site at municipal buildings, and sell the electricity generated to the municipalities at lower rates than they have been paying to their incumbent power suppliers. Expected to be completed in 2Q 2010, the municipalities will not have to lay out any out-of-pocket cash expenses. It’s estimated that once up and running, some 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided.
The news follows on the late July announcement that SEI had been awarded a portion of the $467 million in stimulus/recovery funding allocated from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 “to train displaced workers as solar energy installation and maintenance technicians.”
“Solar Energy Initiatives obtained the funding due to its rapidly growing dealer network and reputation as a leading educator of solar installation,” co-founder and CEO David Fann said in a news release. “We will work with all applicable government agencies in order to secure addition potential grants to assist in the growth of our business. Management remains dedicated to increasing the Company’s dealer network and expanding market presence in order to achieve our ultimate goal of improved shareholder value.”
Renewing the Nation
As a wholesale manufacturer, distributor and budding integrator of solar power systems, Solar Energy Initiatives has a number of things going for it. One is its distribution agreements with the solar divisions of two energy industry powerhouses—BP and GE, as well as leading solar/PV suppliers in Asia.
On the other side of the value chain, the company has assembled a network of 50 dealers in the US through which it can distribute its projects.
Third, renewable energy federal stimulus programs, such as the eight-year extension of the federal investment tax credit and other stimulus and incentives enacted with the passage of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, are providing incentives and support for a promising US solar-PV market that, having grown rapidly in the past five-plus years, has fallen on exceedingly tough times.
Finally, the current recession hit just as large amounts of supply—in new high-grade silicon and solar-PV cells—hit the market. While this has suppressed demand, it has also brought prices of solar thermal and PV products down faster, and lower, than would otherwise have been the case.
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